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A TOOLBOX 

FROM THE PEOPLE Vf HO BROUGHT YOU THE 
YES m, BILLHIHAIRES FOR BUSH, ETC. 

rsimmioivi; 




BEAUTIFUL 

TROUBLE 

A TOOLBOX FOB REVOLUTION 



BEAUTIFUL 

TROUHLE 

A TOOLBOX FOB REVOLUTION 

lio Y» 

WITH DAVE OSWALD MITCHELL 



OR Books 
New York • London 


All essays © 2012 Beautiful Trouble by various authors 
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 
NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at 
http:/ /beautifultrouble.org. 

Published by OR Books, New York and London 
Visit our website at www.orbooks.com 

First printing 2012. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, 
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage retrieval 
system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except 
brief passages for review purposes. 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data: A catalog record for 
this book is available from the Library of Congress. 

British Library Cataloging in Publication Data: A catalog record for this 
book is available from the British Library. 

Art direction and cover design by Cristian Fleming 

Cover illustration by Andy Menconi 

Book design by The Public Society 
www.thepublicsociety.com 

Printed by BookMobile, USA, and CPI, UK. 

The printed edition of this book comes on Forest Stewardship 
Council-certified, 30% recycled paper. The printer, BookMobile, 
is 100% wind-powered. 

paperback ISBN: 978-1-935928-57-7 


ebook ISBN: 978-1-935928-58-4 


BEAUTIFUL TROUBLE TEAM 

Co-editor & wrangler-in-chief / Andrew Boyd 
Co-editor / Dave Oswald Mitchell 
Master of logistics / Zack Malitz 
Photo editor / Margaret Campbell 
Web maker & project agitator / Phillip Smith 
Art Director / Cristian Fleming 
Designer / Stephanie Lukito 
Consultant-in-chief / Nadine Bloch 
Wordhorse / Joshua Kahn Russell 
Fellow traveler / Maxine Schoefer-Wulf 

PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS 

Agit-Pop/The Other 98%, The Yes Men/Yes Labs, CODEPINK, SmartMeme, 

The Ruckus Society, Beyond the Choir, The Center for Artistic Activism, 

Waging Nonviolence, Alliance of Community Trainers and Nonviolence International. 

CONTRIBUTORS 

Rae Abileah, Ryan Acuff, Celia Alario, Phil Aroneanu, Peter Barnes, 

Jesse Barron, Andy Bichlbaum, Nadine Bloch, Kathryn Blume, L.M. Bogad, 

Josh Bolotsky, Mike Bonanno, Andrew Boyd, Kevin Buckland, 

Margaret Campbell, Doyle Canning, Samantha Corbin, Yutaka Dirks, 

Stephen Duncombe, Mark Engler, Simon Enoch, Jodie Evans, John Ewing, 

Brian Fairbanks, Bryan Farrell, Janice Fine, Lisa Fithian, Cristian Fleming, 

Elisabeth Ginsberg, Stan Goff, Arun Gupta, Silas Harrebye, Judith Helfand, 
Daniel Hunter, Sarah Jaffe, John Jordan, Dinytri Kleiner, Sally Kohn, 

Steve Lambert, Anna Lee, Stephen Lerner, Zack Malitz, Nancy Mancias, 

Duncan Meisel, Matt Meyer, Dave Oswald Mitchell, Tracey Mitchell, George Monbiot, 
Brad Newsham, Gaby Pacheco, Mark Read, Patrick Reinsborough, Simon Roel, 

Joshua Kahn Russell, Leonidas Martin Saura, Levana Saxon, Maxine Schoefer-Wulf, 
Nathan Schneider, Kristen Ess Schurr, John Sellers, Rajni Shah, Brooke Singer, 
Matt Skomarovsky, Andrew Slack, Phillip Smith, Jonathan Matthew Smucker, 
Starhawk, Eric Stoner, Jeremy Varon, Virginia Vitzthum, Harsha Walia, 

Jeffery Webber and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. 


The role of the artist in the social structure follows 
the need of the changing times: 

In time of social stasis: to activate 

In time of germination: to invent fertile new forms 

In time of revolution: to extend the possibilities of peace and liberty 

In time of violence: to make peace 

In time of despair: to give hope 

In time of silence: to sing out 


— -Judith Malina, “The Work of 
an Anarchist Theater” 


VI 


A.B. 

To my mentors in the struggle, both far away — George Orwell, 
Abbie Hoffman, Subcomandante Marcos — and close at hand — 
Bob Rivera, Dennis Livingston, Janice Fine, Mike Prokosch, Chuck 
Collins, John Sellers & the RTS/B4B crew. 

D.O.M. 

For the silent leaders behind every victory “who strain in the mud 
and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, 
again and again” (Marge Piercy). 



CONTENTS 


INTRODUCTION / Boyd & Mitchell 

(g) TACTICS 

Advanced leafleting / Lambert & Boyd 
10 Artistic vigil / Boyd 

12 Banner hang / Bloch 

14 Blockade / Russell 

18 Creative disruption / M oncias 

Creative petition delivery / M eisel 
24 Debt strike / Jaffe ScSkomarovsky 

Detournement/Culture jamming / M alitz 
32 Direct action / Russell 

26 Distributed action / Aroneonu 

40 Electoral guerrilla theater / Bogad 

44 Eviction blockade / Acuff 

46 Flash mob / D. Mitchell & Boyd 
48 Forum theater / Saxon 

50 General strike / Lerner 

52 Guerrilla projection / Corbin & Read 
54 Hoax / Bonanno 

56 Human banner / Newsham 

Identity correction / Bichlbou m 
62 Image theater / Soxon 

64 Infiltration / Bichlboum 

Invisible theater / T. Mitchell 
Mass street action / Sellers & Boyd 
Media-jacking / Reinsborough, Canning & Russell 
Nonviolent search and seizure / Hunter 
78 Occupation / Russell & Gupto 


82 Prefigurative intervention / Boyd 

86 Public filibuster / Hunter 

88 Strategic nonviolence / Starhawk & ACT 
Trek / Bloch 

Write your own TACTIC / You 



PRINCIPLES 


Anger works best when you have the moral high ground / Russell 
Anyone can act / Bichlbaum 
Balance art and message / Buckland, Boyd & Bloch 
Beware the tyranny of structurelessness / Bolotsky 
104 Brand or be branded / Fleming 
106 Bring the issue home / Abileah & Evans 

Challenge patriarchy as you organize / Walia 
Choose tactics that support your strategy / Fine 
114 Choose your target wisely / Dirks 

116 Consensus is a means, not an end / Walia 

118 Consider your audience / Kohn 
120 Debtors of the world, unite! / Kleiner 
122 Delegate / Bolotsky & Boyd 
124 Do the media’s work for them / Bichlbaum 
126 Don’t dress like a protester / Boyd 
128 Don’t just brainstorm, artstorm! / Saxon 
130 Don’t mistake your group for society / Bichlbaum 
132 Enable, don’t command / Blume 

134 Escalate strategically / Smucker 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel / Bichlbaum 
If protest is made illegal, make daily life a protest / Bloch 
140 Kill them with kindness / Boyd 
142 Know your cultural terrain / Duncombe 

Lead with sympathetic characters / Canning & Reinsborough 
148 Maintain nonviolent discipline / Schneider 
150 Make new folks welcome / Smucker 

152 Make the invisible visible / Bloch 

Make your actions both concrete and communicative / Russell 


No one wants to watch a drum circle / Lambert 
158 Pace yourself / T. Mitchell 

Play to the audience that isn’t there / Bichlbaum & Boyd 
162 Praxis makes perfect / Russell 

Put movies in the hands of movements / Helfand & Lee 
166 Put your target in a decision dilemma / Boyd & Russell 
168 Reframe/ Canning & Reinsborough 

170 Seek common ground / Smucker 

172 Shift the spectrum of allies / Russell 

Show, don’t tell / Canning, Reinsborough & Buckland 
Simple rules can have grand results / Boyd 
178 Stay on message / Alario 

Take leadership from the most impacted / Russell 
182 Take risks, but take care / Russell 
184 Team up with experts / Singer 

Think narratively / Canning & Reinsborough 
188 This ain’t the Sistine Chapel / Bloch 
190 Turn the tables / Read 

Use others’ prejudices against them / Bloch 
194 Use the Jedi mind trick / Corbin 

196 Use the law, don’t be afraid of it / Bichelboum & Bonanno 

198 Use the power of ritual / Boyd 

Use your radical fringe to slide the Overton window / Bolotsky 
We are all leaders / Smucker 
204 Write your own PRINCIPLE / You 


THEORIES 

Action logic / Boyd & Russell 

Alienation effect / Bogad 
Anti-oppression / Fithian & D. Mitchell 

216 Capitalism / Webber 

218 Commodity fetishism / Molitz 

The commons / Barnes 
Cultural hegemony / Duncombe 
226 Debt revolt / Kleiner 



228 Environmental justice / Campbell 

230 Ethical spectacle / Duncombe 

Expressive and instrumental actions / Smucker, Russel & Malitz 
234 Floating signifier / Smucker, Boyd & D. Mitchell 
236 Hamoq & hamas / M onbiot 
238 Hashtag politics / M eisel 

240 Intellectuals and power / Malitz 
242 Memes / Reinsborough & Canning 
244 Narrative power analysis / Reinsborough & Canning 
246 Pedagogy of the Oppressed / Saxon & Vitzthum 
248 Pillars of support / Stoner 
250 Points of intervention / Reinsborough & Canning 
254 Political identity paradox / Smucker 

256 The propaganda model / Enoch 

260 Revolutionary nonviolence / Meyer 

262 The shock doctrine / Engler 

264 The social cure / Farrell 
266 Society of the spectacle / D. Mitchell 
268 The tactics of everyday life / Goff 

Temporary Autonomous Zone [TAZ] / Jordan 
Theater of the Oppressed / Saxon 
274 Write your own THEORY / You 



CASE STUDIES 


278 99% bat signal / Read 

Barbie Liberation Organization / Bonanno 
286 Battle in Seattle / Sellers 

Bidder 70 / Bichlbaum & M eisel 
The Big Donor Show / Harrebye 
Billionaires for Bush / Varon, Boyd & Fairbanks 
300 Citizens’ Posse / Sellers 

Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army / Jordan 
Colbert roasts Bush / Ginsberg 
312 The Couple in the Cage / Ginsberg 
316 Daycare center sit-in / Boyd 


Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal / Bonanno 
Harry Potter Alliance / Slack 
326 Justice for Janitors / Fithian 

330 Lysistrata project / Blume 

334 Mining the museum / Ginsberg 

Modern-Day Slavery Museum / CIW 
342 The Nihilist Democratic Party / Roel & Ginsberg 
346 Public Option Annie / Boyd 
350 Reclaim the Streets / Jordan 
354 The salt march / Bloch 

Santa Claus Army / Ginsberg 
360 Small gifts / Shah 

364 Stolen Beauty boycott campaign / Schurr 

368 Streets into gardens / Read 
372 Taco Bell boycott / Dirks 

Tar sands action / M eisel & Russell 
Teddy-bear catapult / D. Mitchell 
384 Trail of Dreams / Pacheco 

Virtual Streetcorners / Ewing 
Whose tea party? / Boyd 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation / M eisel 

400 Yomango / Saura 

404 Write your own CASE STUDY / You 

© PRACTITIONERS 

407 Molitz, Schoefer-Wulf & Borron 


434 RESOURCES 

CONTRIBUTOR BIOS 
PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
456 INDEX 



INTRODUCTION 

By Andrew Boyd & Dave Oswald Mitchell 


“The clowns are organizing. They are organizing. Over and out. ” 


— Overheard on UK police radio during action 

by Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, July 2004 (seep. 304) 


“Human salvation,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued, 
“lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted,” and recent 
historical events are proving him as prescient as ever. As the 
recent wave of global revolt has swept through Iceland, 
Bahrain, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Chile, the United States and 
elsewhere, the tools at activists’ disposal, the terrain of strug- 
gle and the victories that suddenly seem possible are quickly 
evolving. The realization is rippling through the ranks that, 
if deployed thoughtfully, our pranks, stunts, flash mobs and 
encampments can bring about real shifts in the balance 
of power. In short, large numbers of people have seen that 
creative action gets the goods — and have begun to act accord- 
ingly. Art, it turns out, really does enrich activism, making it 
more compelling and sustainable. 

This blending of art and politics is nothing new. Tactical 
pranks go back at least as far as the Trojan Horse. Jesus of Naza- 
reth, overturning the tables of the money changers, mastered 
the craft of political theater 2,000 years before Greenpeace. Fools, 
clowns and carnivals have always played a subversive role, while 
art, culture and creative protest tactics have for centuries served 
as fuel and foundation for successful social movements. It’s hard 
to imagine the labor movements of the 1930s without murals and 
creative street actions, the U.S. civil rights movement without song, 
or the youth upheavals of the late 1960s without guerrilla theater, 


Situationist slogans or giant puppets floating above a rally. 

Today’s culture jammers and political pranksters, however, 
shaped by the politics and technologies of the new millen- 
nium, have taken activist artistry to a whole new level. The 
current political moment of looming ecological catastrophe, 
deepening inequality, austerity and unemployment, and grow- 
ing corporate control of government and media offers no 
choice but to fight back. At the same time, the explosion of 
social media and many-to-many communication technologies 
has put powerful new tools at our disposal. We’re building 
rhizomatic movements marked by creativity, humor, networked 
intelligence, technological sophistication, a profoundly partic- 
ipatory ethic and the courage to risk it all for a livable future. 

This new wave of creative activism first drew mainstream 
attention in 1999 at Battle in Seattle, but it didn’t start 
there. In the 1980s and ’90s, groups like ACT-UP, Women’s 
Action Coalition and the Lesbian Avengers inspired a new style 
of high-concept shock politics that both empowered partici- 
pants and shook up public complacency. In 1994, the Zapatistas, 
often described as the first post-modern revolutionary move- 
ment, awakened the political imaginations of activists around 
the world, replacing the dry manifesto and the sectarian 
vanguard with fable, poetry, theater and a democratic movement 
of movements against global capitalism. The U.S. labor move- 
ment, hit hard by globalization, began to seek out new allies, 
including Earth First!, which was pioneering new technologies 
of radical direct action in the forests of northern California. 
The Reclaim the Streets model of militant carnivals radiated 
out from London, and the “organized coincidences” of Critical 
Mass bicycle rides provided a working model of celebratory, 
self-organizing, swarm-like protest. Even the legendary Burning 
Man festival, while not explicitly political, introduced thousands 
of artists and activists to the lived experience of participatory 
culture, radical self-organization and a gift economy. The 
Burning Man slogans “No spectators!” and “You are the enter- 
tainment!” were just as evident on the streets of Seattle as they 
are in the Nevada desert each summer. 

Through the last decade, though we’ve lost ground on 
climate, civil liberties, labor rights and so many other fronts, 
we’ve also seen an incredible flourishing of creativity and tac- 
tical innovation in our movements, both in the streets and 
online. Whether it was the Yes Men prank-announcing the end 
of the WTO (and everyone believing it!), or the Billionaires 


2 


for Bush parading their “Million Billionaire March” past the 
Republican National Convention, or MoveOn staging a mil- 
lions-strong virtual march on Washington to protest the Iraq 
War, our movements were forging new tools and a new sensibility 
that got us through those dark times. Every year, new terms 
had to be invented just to track our own evolution: flash mobs, 
virtual sit-ins, denial-of-service attacks, media pranks, distributed 
actions, viral campaigns, subvertisements, culture jamming, etc. 

As a participant in many of these movements, Andrew 
Boyd, this project’s instigator and co-editor, had been kicking 
around the idea for Beautiful Trouble for almost a decade before 
he teamed up with web maker Phillip Smith and editor Dave 
Oswald Mitchell to make it happen. Little did we know what 
kind of a year 2011 would turn out to be. 

By the time our expanding team of collaborators was 
hammering out our first proof-of-concept modules, Egyptian 
revolutionaries were phoning in pizza orders to the students 
and workers occupying the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. A 
few months later, as we were gearing up for our big finishing 
push, Occupy Wall Street went global. Suddenly, half the people 
we were trying to wrangle modules out of were working double 
overtime for the revolution. The excuses for why these writer/ 
activists were missing their deadlines were priceless (and often 
airtight, since we could simply confirm them by checking the 
day’s news!): Sorry, I had to shut down Wall Street with a blockade- 
carnival while distracting the cops with 99,000 donuts. Or: I’ll get 
that rewrite to you as soon as me and my 12,000 closest friends finish 
surrounding the White House to save the climate as we know it. Or: 
Hold on, I have to sneak a virtuoso guitarist into the most heavily 
guarded spot on earth that day (the APEC summit in Honolulu) to 
serenade Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao with a battle cry 
from the 99%. Or: Shit, I know I said I’d write up that guerrilla 
projection tactic thing you wanted, but I can’t because, get this, I’m 
DOING ONE RIGHT NOW see: CASE: 99% bat signal. Some- 
how, though, we managed to keep moving the project forward 
through the thick of the American Autumn. 


Beautiful Trouble lays out the core tactics, principles and theoret- 
ical concepts that drive creative activism, providing analytical 
tools for changemakers to learn from their own successes and 


3 


failures. In the modules that follow, we map the DNA of these 
hybrid art/action methods, tease out the design principles 
that make them tick and the theoretical concepts that inform 
them, and then show how all of these work together in a series 
of instructive case studies. 

Creative activism offers no one-size-hts-all solutions, and 
neither do we. Beautiful Trouble is less a cookbook than a pat- 
tern language , 1 seeking not to dictate strict courses of action 
but instead offer a matrix of flexible, interlinked modules that 
practitioners can pick and choose among, applying them in 
unique ways varying with each situation they may face. 

The material is organized into five different categories 
of content: 

Tactics 

Specific forms of creative action, such as a flash mob or an 
occupation. 

Principles 

Hard-won insights that can guide or inform creative 
action design. 

Theories 

Big-picture concepts and ideas that help us understand how 
the world works and how we might go about changing it. 

Case studies 

Capsule stories of successful and instructive creative actions, 
useful for illustrating how principles, tactics and theories can be 
successfully applied in practice. 

Practitioners 

Brief write-ups of some of the people and groups that inspire 
us to be better changemakers. 


1 The originator of the concept of a pattern language, architect Christopher Alexander, introduc- 
es the concept thus: the elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern de- 

scribes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the 
core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times 
over, without ever doing it the same way twice." Alexander first introduced the concept of pattern 
languages in his 1977 book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, in which he sought 
to develop "a network of patterns that call upon one another” each providing ‘‘a perennial solu- 
tion to a recurring problem within a building context.” Pattern languages have since been devel- 
oped for other fields as varied as computer science, media and communications, and group process 
work. Though we do not follow the explicit form of a pattern language here, we were inspired 
by its modular interlocking format, its organically expandable structure and by the democrat- 
ic nature of the form, which provides tools for people to adapt to their own unique circumstances. 


4 


Each of these modules is linked to related modules, creating 
a nexus of key concepts that could, theoretically, expand 
endlessly. As the form took hold and the number of participating 
organizations and contributing writers grew, what began as a 
how-to book of prankster activism gradually expanded into a 
Greenpeace-esque direct action manual and from there grew 
further to address issues of mass organizing and emancipa- 
tory pedagogy and practice. 

While we’ve sought to cast as wide a net as possible, drawing 
in over seventy experienced artist-activists and ten grassroots 
organizations to distill their wisdom, we are painfully aware 
of the geographical, thematic and cultural limitations of the 
collection of modules as it currently stands. We’ve included 
in the book blank templates for each content type, and the 
capacity to submit or suggest modules on the website, in the 
hopes that readers will be inspired to identify, and fill in, some 
of these gaps. 

We encourage readers to explore our website, beautifultrouble. org, 
which is more than simply an appendage to the book, but in 
fact stands as perhaps the fullest expression of the project. In 
an easily navigable form, the website includes all the book’s 
content as well as material that, due to constraints of both 
space and time, we were unable to include in this print edition. 
With the participation of readers, the body of patterns that 
constitute Beautiful Trouble could continue to evolve and 
expand, attracting new contributors and keeping abreast of 
emerging social movements and their tactical innovations. 

Millions around the world have awoken notjust to the need 
to take action to reverse deepening inequality and ecological 
devastation, but to our own creative power to do so. You have 
in your hands a distillation of ideas gleaned from those on the 
front lines of creative activism. But these ideas are nothing 
until they’re acted upon. We look forward to seeing what you 
do with them. 


January 2012 


5 






MODES OF ACTION 


Specific forms of creative action, such 
as a flash mob or an occupation. 


“ Tactics . . . lack a specific location , survive through improvi- 
sation , and use the advantages of the weak against the strong 

— Paul Lewis et al. 1 


Every discipline has its forms. Soldiers can choose to lay siege or launch a 
flanking maneuver. Writers can try their hand at biography or flash fiction. 
Likewise, creative activists have their own repertoire of forms. Some, like 
the sit-in and the general strike, are justly famous; others, like flash mobs 
and culture jamming, have a newfangled pop appeal; yet others - like debt 
strike, prefigurative intervention, eviction blockade - are mostly unknown 
but could soon make their appearance on the stage of history. If art truly is 
a hammer with which to shape the world, it’s time to gear up. 


Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis, Situation normal- [Princeton Architectural Press, 1999]. 


1 y Advanced 


leafleting 


COMMON USES 

To get important 
information into the 
right hands. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Center for Tactical Magic 
Institute for Applied 
Autonomy 
WAG 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Institute for Applied Autonomy, 
“Little Brother" 

http://www.appliedautonomy.com/lb.html 

Center for Tactical Magic, 
“The Tactical Ice Cream Unit" 

http://trb. la/yOmgjs 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Steve Lambert 
Andrew Boyd 


“If you’re doing 
standard leafleting, 
you’re wasting 
everybody’s 
time. What you 
need is advanced 
leafleting.” 


Leafleting is the bread-and- 
butter of many campaigns. It’s 
also annoying and ineffective, 
for the most part. How many 
times have you taken a leaf- 
let just because you forgot to 
pull your hand back in time, 
only to throw it in the next 
available trash can? Or you’re 
actually interested and stick it 
in your pocket, but then you 
never get around to reading 

it because it’s a block of tiny, indecipherable text? Well, if 
that’s what a committed, world-caring person like you does, 
just imagine what happens to all the leaflets you give out to 
harried career-jockeys as they rush to or from work. 

In a word, if you’re doing standard leafleting, you’re wast- 
ing everybody’s time. What you need is advanced leafleting. 

In advanced leafleting, we acknowledge that if you’re go- 
ing to hand out leaflets like a robot, you might as well have a 
robot hand them out. Yes, an actual leafleting robot. In 1998, 
the Institute for Applied Autonomy built “Little Brother” 
a small, intentionally cute, 1950s-style metal robot to be a 
pamphleteer. In their tests, strangers avoided a human pam- 
phleteer, but would go out of their way to take literature 
from the robot. 

Make it fun. Make it unusual. Make it memorable. Don’t 
just hand out leaflets. Climb up on some guy’s shoulders 
and hand out leaflets from there, as one of the authors 
of this piece did as a student organizer. (He also tried the 
same tactic hitchhiking, with less stellar results.) The share- 
holder heading into a meeting is more likely to take, read and 
remember the custom message inside the fortune cook- 
ie you just handed her than a rectangle of paper packed 
with text. 

Using theater and costumes to leaflet can also be effective. 
In the 1980s, activists opposed to U.S. military intervention 
in Central America dressed up as waiters and carried maps 
of Central America on serving trays, with little green plastic 


TACTIC: Advanced leafleting 


toy soldiers glued to the map. They would go up to people in 
the street and say, “Excuse me, sir, did you order this war?” 
When the “no” response invariably followed, they would 
present an itemized bill outlining the costs: “Well, you paid 
for it!” Even if the person they addressed didn’t take the 
leaflet, they’d get the message. 

The point is, leafleting is not a bad tactic. It’s still a good 
way to tell passersby what you’re marching for, why you’re 
making so much noise on a street corner or why you’re set- 
ting police cars on fire. But people are more likely to take 
your leaflet, read it, and remember what it’s all about if you 
deliver it with flair. Or ice cream. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Creative petition delivery p. 22 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Mass street action p. 68 
Street theater web 
Electoral guerilla theater p. 40 
Guerrilla newspaper web 

CASE STUDIES 

New York Times “Special Edition" web 


KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS: ’Nuff said. Pissing people off won’t 
do your cause any favors, so don’t piss people off. Disarm 
with charm, and maybe your audience will let their guard 
down long enough to hear what you have to say. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Show, don't tell p. 174 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Stay on message p. 178 


TACTIC: Advanced leafleting 


9 



COMMON USES 

To mourn the death of a 
public hero; to link a natural 
disaster or public tragedy 
to a political message; to 
protest the launch of a war. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Artists' Network of Refuse & Resist 
Women In Black 
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 
Suzanne Lacy 
Arlington West 
Bread and Puppet Theater 
“I Dream Your Dream" 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Kelly, Jeff. “The Body Politics of Suzanne 
Lacy." But Is It Art? Edited by Nina 
Felshin. Seattle: Bay Press, 1994. 

T.V. Reed. The Art of Protest: 
Culture and Activism from the Civil 
Rights Movement to the Streets of 
Seattle. University of MN, 2005. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


The word vigil comes from the Latin word for wakefulness, and 
refers to a practice of keeping watch through the night over the 
dead or dying. Compared to the blustery pronouncements of a 
rally, a candlelight vigil offers a more soulful and symbolically 
potent expression of dissent. 

Unfortunately, routine and self-righteousness can strip vigils 
of their power. In the American peace movement of the 1970s, 
’80s and ’90s, the “candlelight vigil” — all too often a handful 
of dour people silently holding candles — became a standard, 
and fatally predictable, form of protest. 

An artistic vigil, on the other hand, brings a more artful touch. 
This doesn’t necessarily mean costumes and face paint and pup- 
pets (though it could). It means thoughtful symbolism, the right 
tone and a distinct look and feel that clearly convey the meaning 
of the vigil. An artistic vigil often draws upon ritual elements see 
PRINCIPLE: Use the power of ritual to both deepen the experience 
of participants and demonstrate that experience to observers. 



“Our Grief is not a Cry for War" vigils organized by the Artists' Network of Refuse & Resist in New York City in the wake 
of 9/11. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Exit Art’s "Reactions" Exhibition Collection [reproduction 
number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456] 


10 


TACTIC: Artistic vigil 







Related: 


A good example is the series of “Our Grief Is Not a Cry 
for War” vigils organized by the Artists’ Network of Refuse & 
Resist in New York City in the wake of 9/11. People were asked to 
wear a dust mask (common in NYC after 9/11), dress all in black 
(common in NYC all the time), show up at Times Square at 
exactly 5 pm, and remain absolutely silent. Each participant 
held a sign that read “Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War.” These 
vigils were silent and solemn, but there was a precision to the 
message that gave them a visceral potency in that emotionally 
raw time, for participants and observers alike. 

The most famous vigils of the late twentieth century were 
probably those organized by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, 
a group of Argentinian women whose children were disappeared 
by Argentina’s 70s-era military dictatorship. By gathering every 
Thursday for more than a decade in the plaza in front of the Presi- 
dential Palace, they not only kept vigil for their lost loved ones, but 
also kept pressure on the government to answer for its crimes. 

The “artistry” of a vigil can be exceedingly complex, or as 
simple as a few basic rituals. The simple fact of women wearing 
black and gathering in silence on Fridays gives shape and pres- 
ence to the Women in Black worldwide network of vigils. Begun 
by Israeli women during the First Intifada to protest the occu- 
pation of Palestine, it has since expanded across the globe and 
embraced broader anti-war and pro-justice themes, but none- 
theless maintains its distinctive character. At the other end of 
the spectrum, artist Suzanne Facy has created complex works 
of art in which victims of sexual violence stand vigil amidst the 
art installations that tell their stories. 


TACTICS 

Image theater p. 62 
Distributed action p. 32 
Advanced leafleting p. 8 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 


USE THE POWER OF RITUAL: Compared to the average political 
event, a ritual is expected to have a certain gravitas, a high- 
er level of emotional integrity, even a transcendent quality 
for participants. Tike all rituals, a vigil should work at both 
the personal and political levels. It should offer a sacred 
experience for participants while effectively reaching out to 
nonparticipants. The more these two goals align, the more 
powerful the experience is for the participants and the more 
powerful the impact on the broader public. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

No one wants to watch a drum circle p. 156 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

Consider your audience p. 176 

Balance art and message p. 100 


TACTIC: Artistic vigil 


11 



COMMON USES 

To boldly articulate a demand; 
to rebrand a target; to provide 
a message frame or larger- 
than-life caption for an action. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Ruckus Society 
Greenpeace 
Rainforest Action Network 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Ruckus Society, “Balloon 
Banner Manual" 

http://ruckus.org/article. php?id=364 

Tree Climbing 

http://trb.la/xa9dGu 

Destructables, “Banner Drops" 

http://Destructables.org/node/56 

Destructables, “Banner Hoist" 

http://Destructables.org/node/57 

Steal This Wiki, “ Banners " 
http://wiki.stealthiswiki.org/wiki/Banners 

Freeway Blogger 

http://freewayblogger.blogspot.com/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


lUlCLEflii 

(REE 

SEAS 

ft** 1 ** 

* * 


Astoria Bridge Nuclear Free Seas Banner Blockade. Greenpeace climbers hang from the Astoria-Megler Bridge over the 
Columbia River in Oregon to protest and block the arrival of the nuclear warship USS New Jersey. 1990. Photo by James Perez. 

What better way to air the dirty laundry of an irresponsible 
institution than to hang a giant banner over its front door? A 
banner drop can also be an effective way to frame or contextualize 
an upcoming event or protest see TACTIC: Reframe. Banner hangs 
can also function as public service announcements to alert the 
public of an injustice or a dangerous situation. 

Banner hangs can be as low-tech and low-risk as several 
bedsheets tied to road overpasses decrying the Iraq War, but 
the ones that really pack a punch involve large pieces of cloth or 
netting deployed at great heights, often by experienced climbers. 

Regardless of the level of risk or complexity, all effective ban- 
ner hangs start with a clear goal (you have a goal, right?!), and fall 
into two broad categories: communicative (concise protest state- 
ments) , and concrete (blockade elements that directly disrupt busi- 
ness as usual) see PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete and 
communicative. In 1991, in a great example of a banner hang with 
a concrete goal, small communities in the Pacific Northwest asked 
for help to stop nuclear warships from entering Clatsop County, 
Oregon, a designated nuclear-free zone on the Columbia River. 
An enormous net banner was deployed from the Astoria Bridge, 
affixed below the span where it would be difficult to remove, 
and weighted by the climbers’ bodies themselves. The action 



12 


TACTIC: Banner Hang 


succeeded in delaying the warships’ entrance while educating 
the area on the issue. 

Most banner hangs, however, tend to be communicative. 
Take, for instance, the banner hung from a crane in downtown 
Seattle in November 1999 see CASE: Battle in Seattle just before the 
opening of the World Trade Organization meeting. The ban- 
ner messaging was as clear as day: an iconic visual of a street 
sign with arrows pointing in opposite directions: democracy this 
way, WTO that way. This was a classic “framing action.” Hung on 
the eve of a big summit meeting and a huge protest, the banner 
made it clear what all the fuss to come was really about: a 
basic struggle of right and wrong; the People vs. WTO. 

When there is no crane, bridge or building to hang your ban- 
ner from, large helium-filled weather balloons have been used 
to raise everything from CODEPINK’s “pink slip for President 
George Bush” in front of the White House to a banner deployed 
from a houseboat on the East River in New York with a message for 
the UN. Smaller balloons have been used to raise banners indoors 
in the atriums of malls or corporate or government buildings. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Guerrilla projections p. 52 
Giant props web 
Media-jacking p. 72 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Framing web 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: If the banner hang requires specific climbing 
skills or tools, do not skimp on training, scouting, or the quality 
of gear. Cutting corners could result in the banner snagging, the 
team being detained before the banner drops, or someone get- 
ting seriously injured or killed. Pay attention to changing weather 
conditions that could turn a proverbial walk in the park into a life- 
threatening situation see PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care. Also, 
make sure that lighting, lettering, height of building and other 
factors are taken into account to ensure a readable banner. 


SAY IT WITH PROPS: If it’s worth saying, it’s worth saying loudly ! 
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing boldly ! What better way to 
put your message out there, than to spell it out in twelve-foot- 
high letters? 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Reframe p. 168 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 1 54 


TACTIC: Banner Hang 


13 


Blockade 


COMMON USES 

To physically shut down 
something bad (a coal mine, the 
World Trade Organization), 
to protect something good [a 
forest, someone’s home), or to 
make a symbolic statement, 
such as encircling a target 
[the White House). 

PRACTITIONERS 

Grassy Narrows First Nation 
Penan of Borneo 
Civil rights movement 
Global justice movement 
Greenpeace 

Migrant/immigrant rights movement 
American Indian Movement 
Black Panther Party 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Ruckus Society, “Manuals 
and Checklists" 

http://ruckus.org/section.php?id=82 

Praxis Makes Perfect, “Resources 
for Organizers" 

http://trb.la/yTYBj7 

The Ruckus Society, A Tiny Blockades 
Book pamphlet, Oakland California, 2005 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


Blockades commonly have one of two purposes: first, to stop 
the bad guys, usually by targeting a point of decision (a board- 
room), a point of production (a bank), or a point of destruction 
(a clearcut) see THEORY: Points of intervention-, or second, to 
protect public or common space such as a building occupation 
or an encampment. 

Blockades can consist of soft blockades (human barricades, 
such as forming a line and linking arms) or hard blockades (using 
gear such as chains, U-locks, lock-boxes, tripods or vehicles. 
Blockades can involve one person or thousands of people, 
and can be a stand-alone tactic or an element of a larger tactic 
like an occupation. 



Daguerreotype entitled, “Barricades avant I'attaque, Rue Saint-Maur" (“ Barricades Before the Attack, Rue Saint- 
Maur"). Barricades were a completely new tactic at the time, and spread like wildfire across Europe. This is one of the 
very first photos ever taken of a street protest. By M. Thibault. 

Successful blockades can be primarily concrete or communicative 
see PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete and communicative. 
Either way, all participants should be clear on the goals. For ex- 
ample, if your blockade is symbolic, it does not require a decision 
dilemma see: PRINCIPLE: Put your target in a decision dilemma. If, 
however, you have an concrete goal, like preventing people from 


TACTIC: Blockade 


entering a building, you must ensure that your blockade has the 
capacity to achieve that goal. In other words, make sure you’ve 
got all the exits covered. 

Whatever the case, it’s important to lead with your goals. 
Don’t think in terms of less or more radical; think in terms of 
what is appropriate to your goals, strategy, tone, message, risk, 

and level of escalation see PRINCIPLE: Choose tactics that support 
your strategy. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind, adapted from the Ruckus 
Society’s how-to guide, A Tiny Blockades Book. 

Build a crew. It all begins with a good action team and 
good nonviolence/direct-action training. 

All roles are important. A good support team is essential. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Banner drop p. 12 
Mass street action p. 68 
Occupation p. 78 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Action logic p. 208 
The commons p. 220 
Cycles of social movements web 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 


Know your limits. Make a realistic assessment of your capacity 
and resources. 


Scout, scout, scout. Spend a lot of time getting to know 
your location. 

Know your choke points. These are the spots that make you 
the most secure and pesky blockader. Choose a spot that 
your target cannot just work, walk, or drive around. 

Practice, and prepare contingency plans. 

Don’t plan for your action ; plan through your action. Think of 
the action as “the middle,” and expect a ton of prep work 
and follow-through — legal, emotional and political. 

Have a media strategy. Make sure your message gets out 
and your action logic is as transparent as possible see 
THEORY: Action logic. Don’t let communications be an 
afterthought. 

Eliminate unnecessary risk. Make your action as safe as it can 
be to achieve your goals see PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care. 

Do not ignore power dynamics within your group or between 
you and your target. Race, class, gender identity (real or 
perceived) , sexual identity (real or perceived) , age, physi- 


TACTIC: Blockade 


cal ability, appearance, immigration status and nationality 
all affect your relationship to the action. 

Dress for success. Make sure that your appearance helps 
carry the tone you want to set for your action. Dress 
comfortably. Ensure that support people bring water, 
food, and extra layers. 

Be creative. Have fun. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: A complex and confrontational tactic like 
blockade requires meticulous planning and preparation, and 
should never be attempted without significant preparation, re- 
search and training see PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Choose tactics that support your strategy p. 112 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 1 66 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Show, don’t tell p. 174 
Take leadership from the most impacted p. 180 
Anger works best when you have 
the moral high ground p. 96 


PUT YOUR TARGETS IN A DECISION DILEMMA: When employing a 
blockade with a concrete goal, your ability to “hold the space” 
will depend on your decision dilemma. If you are able to prevent 
your target from “going out the back door” (metaphorically or 
literally), you have successfully created a dynamic where you 
cannot be ignored. 


16 


TACTIC: Blockade 



Mobilization for Climate Justice activists blockade intersection in San Francisco, 2009. Photo by Rainforest Action 
Network. 


TACTIC: Blockade 


17 



COMMON USES 

To expose and disrupt 
the public relations efforts 
of the armed and dangerous. 

Particularly useful at 
speeches, hearings, meetings, 
fundraisers and the like. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Human salvation lies 
in the hands of the 
creatively maladjusted.” 

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

PRACTITIONERS 

CODEPINK Women for Peace 
WAG 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Thompson, Nato, and Gregory Sholette. 
The Interventionists: Users’ Manual 
for the Creative Disruption of Everyday 
Life. North Adams, M A: Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology and Massachusetts 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004. 

Video: “Newt Gingrich Gets Glittered 
at the Minnesota Family Council'' 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=g80ZsJokBB0 

Video: “Auctioneer: Stop All 
the Sales Right Now!" 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=u3X89iVIAIw 

Video: “Mass Walkout at Wayne State 
Leaves IDF Spokesman 
Lecturing to Empty Room" 

http://trb.la/yWfBd8 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nancy L. Mancias 


18 


“A well-designed 
creative disruption 
should leave 
your target no 
good option ” 


If a war criminal like Dick Cheney or a corporate criminal like 
former BP CEO Tony Hayward comes to town, what’s the best 
way to challenge the spin they’ll put on their misdeeds? Of- 
ten, the scale of the misdeeds and the imbalance of power are 
so great that activists will forgo dialogue and move straight to 
disruption, attempting to shut down or seriously disrupt the 
event. Disruption can be an effective tactic, and has been used 
successfully by small groups of people, often with little advance 
notice or advance planning. 

The problem, of course, is that 
not only does the target control 
the mic, the stage, and the venue, 
but even more importantly, as 
an invited guest or the official 
speaker, s/he has the audience’s 
sympathy. A poorly thought-out 
shout-down or disruption can 
easily backfire. The target can portray themselves as a victim 
of anti-free speech harassment, thus gaining public sympathy 
and a larger platform. The challenge is to disrupt the event 
without handing your target that opportunity. 

Sometimes an oblique intervention that re-frames the target’s 
remarks or forces a response to your issues without literally pre- 
venting anyone from speaking can be more effective than just 
shouting down someone. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 
held a rare town hall meeting in San Francisco in 2006 during 
the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, CODEPINK 
demonstrators — angry that Pelosi was not pushing for a cut- 
off in war funding — waited until the Q and A session, then 
surrounded the stage with their “Stop Funding War” banners 
and stood there, silently, for the remainder of the meeting. 

The creative use of a sign or banner can help you avoid the 
“it’s an attack on free speech” trap. In effect, you’re adding an 
additional “layer” of speech; you’re engaging in more free speech, 
not less. Song can can also be used in this way. A 2011 foreclo- 
sure auction in Brooklyn, for instance, was movingly disrupted 
by protesters breaking into song. Song creates sympathy. 

A creative disruption needn’t be passive. When Newt Gin- 
grich came to the Minnesota Family Council conference for a 


TACTIC: Creative Disruption 


book signing, a queer activist dutifully waited in line and when 
it came to his turn, dumped rainbow glitter over Gingrich, 
shouting, “Feel the rainbow, Newt! Stop the hate, stop anti- 
gay policies” as he was escorted out of the room. The video 
documenting the event see PRINCIPLE: Do the media’s work 
for them went viral and the disruption gained international 
press attention, sparking a wave ofLGBT activism. The tactic 
of “glitter-bombing” even made it into an episode of the 
TV show Glee. 

Theater is another way to “disrupt without disrupting.” 
When Jeane Kirkpatrick (Reagan’s Ambassador to the UN), 
came to UC Berkeley in the 1980’s, activists staged a mock 
death-squad kidnapping. “Soldiers” (students) in irregular 
fatigues marched down the main aisle barking orders in Span- 
ish and dragged off a few students kicking and screaming 
from the audience. Others then scattered leaflets detailing the 
U.S.’s and Kirkpatrick’s support for El Salvador’s death-squad 
government from the balcony onto the stunned audience. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Infiltration p. 64 
Public filibuster p. 86 
Flash mob p. 46 
Eviction blockade p. 44 
Sit-in web 
Direct action p. 32 
Guerrilla theater p. 40 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Alienation effect p. 210 

CASE STUDIES 

Public Option Annie p. 34 6 
Whose tea party? p. 392 
Colbert roasts Bush p. 308 
Bidder 70 p. 290 
Citizens’ Posse p. 300 


CODEPINK activists re frame a Nancy Pelosi speech at a town hall forum in 2006 with their silent protest - showing how 
creative disruption can be an effective tactic by putting their target in a lose-lose situation. Chronicle/ Michael M acor. 


As these examples show, it’s critical to tailor your disrup- 
tion to the specific target and situation. Often, you can be 
more effective if you step out of the “combative speech box” 
and consider alternate modalities, like visuals, song, theater, 
and humor. 


TACTIC: Creative Disruption 




Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum being glitter-bombed at a Town Hall forum in late 2012 by LGBT rights 
activists. Not only did the initial hit of glitter creatively disrupt his meet-and-greet, but the continual presence of glitter on 
his person put him and his homophobic and anti-LGBT sentiments in a decision-dilemma. REUTERS/Sarah Conard 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

The real action is your target's reaction web 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 
Show, don’t tell p. 174 
Reframe p. 168 
Think narratively p. 18 6 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 


PUT YOUR TARGETS IN A DECISION DILEMMA: Well-designed creative 
disruption should leave your target no good option. If Nancy 
Pelosi had acknowledged or engaged with the protesters, she 
would have only elevated their credibility and drawn further 
attention to their message. Had security cleared out the si- 
lent activists, it would have looked heavy-handed. Had she left 
the scene, it would have been seen as a capitulation. Her least 
worst option, and what she chose to do, was continue with the 
event — whose meaning was then reframed by the silent pro- 
test signs around her. A well-designed creative disruption puts 
you in a win-win — and your target in a lose-lose — situation. 


20 


TACTIC: Creative Disruption 



**** 


HOSE WHO PROFESS TO FAVOR FREEDOM, 
AND YET DEPRECATE AGITATION . . . 

WANT RAIN WITHOUT THUNDER AND LIGHTNING. 
THIS STRUGGLE MAY BE A MORAL ONE; 

OR IT MAY BE A PHYSICAL ONE; OR IT MAY BE 
BOTH MORAL AND PHYSICAL; BUT IT MUST BE A STRUGGLE. 

POWER CONCEDES NOTHING WITHOUT A DEMAND. IT NEVER 
DID AND IT NEVER WILL. 



-Frederick Douglass 


y Creative petition delivery 


COMMON USES 

To translate online outcry into 
offline action; to make mass 
public opposition unavoidably 
visible to a campaign target. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Avaaz.org 
M oveOn.org 
Greenpeace 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Creative Petition: Bags of Grain to the 
White House to Prevent War, 1955 

http://trb.la/wce Mpx 

Avaaz, “Highlights" 
http://www.avaaz.org/en/highlights.php 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Duncan M eisel, with help from 
Pascal Vollenweider @ Avaaz 


Online petitions are an effective way of spreading informa- 
tion, raising an outcry or putting pressure on a target. But 
online actions alone are easily ignored by targets. To translate 
virtual signatures into real-world action, a number of netroots 
organizations have developed the art of creative petition 
delivery. While publicizing your message and the support it has 
garnered, creative petition deliveries put public pressure on 
your target. 

It’s helpful to find creative ways to physically quantify the 
number of petition signatures. A number of well-labeled boxes 
rolled into a target’s office is a tried and true approach, but 
other tactics can be effective as well. For a petition asking the 
World ffealth Organization to investigate and regulate factory 
farms, the international multi-issue campaign organization 
Avaaz set up 200 cardboard pigs — each representing 1,000 
petition signers — in front of the WHO building in Geneva, 
providing the media with a visual hook on which to peg stories 
about factory farms and swine flu. 

But you don’t have to physically occupy the same space as 
your target. Attracting media attention can be an effective way 
to reach a target as well. Avaaz sometimes places ads in news- 
papers that both their target and supporters are likely to read. 
In one instance, to deliver a petition against nuclear energy to 
German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, they purchased an ad in 
Der Spiegel, the German paper of record. 

Or try a more outlandish media stunt. To deliver a petition 
against deepwater oil drilling in the Arctic, Greenpeace Inter- 
national sent its executive director to a controversial oil rig in 
the middle of the ocean, where he trespassed onto the rig to 
deliver the petition to the ship’s captain — at which point he 
was arrested and held for four days. Between the unusual way 
it was delivered and the media coverage that resulted, the peti- 
tion was difficult for the target to ignore. 

Sometimes less public tactics can be equally effective: to 
deliver a petition about cluster bombs to a UN conference de- 
bating arms munitions treaties, Avaaz first digitally delivered 
600,000 petition signatures to the head of the conference, and 
then quietly distributed 1,000 fliers to conference attendees, 
describing the issue and listing the number of people who’d 


TACTIC: Creative petition delivery 


signed the petition. Even the subtle hint of public pressure cre- 
ated a stir in the often obscure world of UN diplomats. The 
delivery had a big impact on the eventual outcome of the con- 
ference, which did not adopt a draft treaty to allow stockpiling 
of cluster bombs. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Distributed action p. 36 
Artistic vigil p. 10 
Advanced leafleting p. 8 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 


38 Degrees members deliver a petition of over 410,000 names to the NHS. Their message: Save Our NHS. Photo 
by 38 Degrees. 


Creative petition deliveries allow organizers to turn online 
outcry into offline action. By becoming unavoidably visible to 
a campaign target, creative deliveries make sure the voices of 
thousands of petition signers are publicly heard. 


MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Creative petition deliveries give an 
abstract issue a physical and visual presence. Public figures 
and decision-makers can afford to avoid listening to public 
outcry as long as it remains distant and exclusively online. 
By bringing the voices of petition signers to a target (and the 
media) in a way that makes them impossible to ignore, cre- 
ative petition deliveries amplify the effectiveness of online 
organizing efforts. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Create online-offline synergy web 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Bring the issue home p. 106 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Choose your target wisely 114 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 166 

Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 160 


TACTIC: Creative petition delivery 





TACTIC: 

Debt strike 


COMMON USES 

To fight back against 
financial exploitation 
when many people are 
crushed by debt. 

EPIGRAPH 

“If you owe the bank $100, 
that’s your problem; if you 
owe the bank $100 million, 
that’s the bank’s problem.” 

-John Paul Getty 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Sarah Jaffe 
Matthew Skomarovsky 


What does non-cooperation with our own oppression look 
like? Sometimes it looks like Rosa Parks refusing to sit 
in the back of the bus, and sometimes it’s less visible — 
for instance, a coordinated refusal to make our monthly 
debt payments. 

With wages in many countries stagnant since the 1970s, 
people have increasingly turned to debt financing to pay for 
education, housing and health care. Banks have aggressively 
pursued and profited from this explosion of debt, fueling eco- 
nomic inequality, inflating a massive credit bubble and trap- 
ping millions in a form of indentured servitude. 

Most people feel obliged to pay back loans no matter the 
cost, or fear the lasting consequences of default, but the fi- 
nancial crisis has begun to change that. After watching the 
government shovel trillions in bailouts and dirt-cheap loans 
to big banks, growing numbers view our debt burdens as a 
structural problem and a massive scam rather than a personal 
failure or a legitimate obligation. But asking politicians and 
banks for forgiveness is unlikely to get us anywhere, because 
our payments are their profits. What we need is leverage. 

Enter the debt strike, an experiment in collective bargain- 
ing for debtors. The idea is simple: en masse, we stop paying 
our bills to the banks until they negotiate. Because they can’t 
operate without these payments — for student loans, mort- 
gages, or consumer credit — they’re under severe pressure 
to negotiate. Such a strike can be connected to demands to 
reform the financial system, abolish predatory and usurious 
loan conditions, or provide direct debt forgiveness. Strikers 
could even pool some or all of the money they’re not paying, 
and put it into a “strike fund” to support the campaign or 
kick-start alternative community-based credit systems. 

Coordination is key. We can’t act in isolation, exposing 
ourselves to retaliation and division. Instead, participants 
should all sign a pledge — either public or confidential — 
to stop paying certain bills. When enough people sign up 
to provide real leverage, strike. In the meantime, organize 
furiously, publicize a running total, aggregate grievances, 
collect outrageous debt stories, and watch the financial 
elite panic. 


TACTIC: Debt strike 


A debt strike is audacious, simple, and easy to participate 
in — easier than paying bills, since all you have to do is not pay 
your bills. It takes courage and social support, but provides 
immediate gratification. Who doesn’t despise the monthly 
ritual of sending away precious cash to line the pockets of 
dishonest and destructive financial institutions? 

Although a massive debt strike has not yet been organized, 
efforts are underway. People have been mobilizing for years to 
fight foreclosures and predatory loans. The Occupy Student 
Debt Campaign aims to gather a million student debt refusal 
pledges. Another group is building a social pledge system to 
connect debtors by neighborhood, common lenders and de- 
mands. Online social networks, pledge-to-act platforms like 
ThePoint.com and story aggregators like Tumblr may soon 
become weapons on the battlefield of debt. 

The outrage, organizers, techniques and tools already 
exist, and the tactic has perhaps never been more justified. The 
debt strike is out there, waiting to take the world by storm. 



FURTHER INSIGHT 

Stephen Lerner, “Take the Fight to the 
Streets," In These Times, April 18, 2011 

http://trb.la/wooXp3 

Sarah Jaffe, “Debtor's Revolution: 

Are Debt Strikes Another Possible 
Tactic in the Fight Against the Big 
Banks?" AlterNet, November 3, 2011 

http://trb.la/wlMxqX 

Rortybomb, “Some Quick Thoughts 
on the Notion of a Debtors' Strike" 

http://trb.la/ydZE6e 

Occupy Student Debt Campaign 

http://www.occupystudent 

debtcampaign.org/ 

Debt Strike kick-stopper 

http://forum.contactcon.com/ 

discussion/33/kick-stopper#ltem_1 

Related: 

TACTICS 

General strike p. 50 
Distributed action p. 36 
Direct action p. 32 

PRINCIPLES 

Debtors of the world, unite! p. 120 
Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Take risks but take care p. 182 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Put your target in a decision 
dilemma p. 166 


Gan Golan as the Master of Degrees. From the book The Adventures of Unemployed Man by Gan Golan and Erich 
Origen. Photo by Friedel Fisher. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: While the initial sign-up is as easy as sign- 
ing an online petition, unlike a petition, there are potentially 
serious consequences. Defaulting on a loan impacts your 
credit rating, which can severely impact your future ability 
to get a credit card, rent an apartment, buy a car, or even 
get a job. Thus a successful debt strike will require support 


TACTIC: Debt strike 



networks for strikers, the same 
way a union has a strike fund to 
support striking workers. 

Achieving the critical mass 
required for the tactic to be 
effective may also be a chal- 
lenge. A debt strike is only 
effective at large scale. 


“ A debt strike is 
easier than paying 
bills, since all you 
have to do is not 
pay your bills. ” 


KEY THEORY 

at work 

OTHER THEORIES AT WORK: 

Pillars of support p. 248 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Capitalism p. 216 
The commons p. 220 


DEBT REVOLT: Debt is too often treated like a personal failing 
that shouldn’t be discussed in public, rather than a common 
struggle against systemic exploitation. We also tend to think 
of debt as a non-negotiable fact rather than a social construct. 
Once we realize that debts are shared fictions that can be re- 
negotiated or even rejected entirely, we discover we have the 
power to pull the plug on a system that relies on our sepa- 
ration, shame, and consent. Household debt in the U.S. is 
around ninety percent of GDP, has grown at nearly twice the 
rate of real incomes, and as Mike Konczal has noted, impacts 
the bottom 99% disproportionately. As the slogan for the 
Occupy Student Debt campaign says: “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay? 
Don’t Pay!” 


26 


TACTIC: Debt strike 



Student protester. Lack of economic opportunity is a threat to students, but what will non-cooperation with their 
oppression look like, and who will it threaten? 


TACTIC: Debt strike 


27 


TACTIC: 

Detournement/Culture jamming 


COMMON USES 

Altering the meaning of 
a target’s messaging or 
brand; packaging critical 
messages as highly 
contagious media viruses. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Situationist International 
Adbusters 
Jon Stewart 
Stephen Colbert 
Center for Tactical Magic 
Robbie Conal 
Guillermo Gomez-Peha 
Gran Fury 
Guerrilla Girls 
Preemptive Media 
Reverend Billy and the 
Church of Earthalujah 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

lack Malitz 


“Detournement 
appropriates and 
alters an existing 
media artifact, one 
that the intended 
audience is already 
familiar with, in 
order to give it a 
new meaning ” 


Urban living involves a daily 
onslaught of advertisements, 
corporate art, and mass-medi- 
ated popular culture see THE- 
ORY: Society of the spectacle. As 
oppressive and alienating as this 
spectacle may be, its very 
ubiquity offers plentiful oppor- 
tunities for semiotic jiu-jitsu and 
creative disruption. Subversive 
and marginalized ideas can 
spread contagiously by reappro- 
priating artifacts drawn from 
popular media and injecting 
them with radical connotations. 

This technique is known as detournement. Popularized by 
Guy Debord and the Situationists, the term is borrowed from 
French and roughly translates to “overturning” or “derail- 
ment.” Detournement appropriates and alters an existing 
media artifact, one that the intended audience is already familiar 
with, in order to give it a new, subversive meaning. 

In many cases, the intent is to criticize the appropriated 
artifact. For instance, the neo-Situationist magazine Adbusters 
has created American flags bearing corporate logos in place of 
stars. The traditional flag, which is often used to quash dissent 
by equating America with liberty and progress see THEORY: 
Floating signifies is made to communicate its own critique: cor- 
porations, not the people, rule America. Similarly, an Adbusters 
“subvertisement” for Camel cigarettes, perfectly rendered in 
the style and lettering of real Camel advertisements, depicts a 
bald Joe Chemo in a hospital bed. 

Detournement works because humans are creatures of 
habit who think in images, feel our way through life, and often 
rely on familiarity and comfort as the final arbiters of truth 
see PRINCIPLE: Think narratively. Rational arguments and ear- 
nest appeals to morality may prove less effective than a care- 
fully planned detournement that bypasses the audience’s 
mental filters by mimicking familiar cultural symbols, then 
disrupting them. 


TACTIC: Detournement/Culture jamming 



FURTHER INSIGHT 

“A User's Guide to Detournement" 

http://trb.la/zvA2dH 

“Detournement as Negation and Prelude ” 

http://trb.la/zTgoFp 

Mark Dery, “Culture Jamming: 

Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping 
in the Empire of Signs" 

http://markdery.com/7pageJcM54 

Lasn, Kalle. Culture Jam: The Uncooling of 
America. New York: Eagle Brook, 1999. 

Heath, Joseph, and Andrew Potter. 

The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't 
Be Jammed. New York: Harper, 2005. 

Destructables, “The Art and Science 
of Billboard Improvement ” 

http://destructables.org/node/82 

Destructables, “Phonebooth 
Takeover Tutorial” 

http://destructables.org/node/52 

Destructables, “Shop-Dropping 
Product Lables” 

http://trb.la/wLEUjZ 

Related: 


“Pepper spray cop" Lt. Pike strolls through the Beatles' iconic Abbey Road cover, casually pepper spraying Paul 
McCartney. This doctored image plays on the popularity of the Beatles to emphasize the callous absurdity of 
Pike's actions. 

For instance, UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike began to 
pop up in some unexpected places after he was captured on him 
casually pepper spraying students during a peaceful protest. 
One image depicted Lt. Pike walking through John Trumbull’s 
classic painting The Declaration of Independence and pepper 
spraying America’s founding document, while another depict- 
ed him in Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La 
Grande Jatte, pepper spraying a woman lounging in the grass. 
These images, and other detournements of “pepper spray cop,” 
are some of the most visible critiques of police brutality in 
recent American history. 


1 It is worth noting that the “pepper spray cop” meme emerged out of an incident in which the victims 
of police brutality were mostly white college students. By contrast, the brutal murder of Oscar 
Grant, a young black man, by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, which was also filmed, gen- 
erated nowhere near the same level of outrage. Detournement, as a communicative strategy that 
closely mimics dominant culture, often replicates-or even relies on-oppressive cultural assump- 
tions and biases. 


TACTICS 

Media-jacking p. 72 
Identity correction p. 60 
Guerrilla projection p. 52 
Guerrilla newspaper web 

THEORIES 

Society of the spectacle p. 266 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Memes p. 242 
Alienation effect p. 210 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Points of intervention p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 

Colbert roasts Bush p. 308 

Mining the Museum p. 334 

Couple in the Cage p. 312 

The Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 

99% bat signal p. 278 


TACTIC: Detournement/Culture jamming 





In addition to its instrumental, critical function, detournement 
has an important humanistic function. Detournement can be 
used to disrupt the flow of the media spectacle and, ultimately, 
to rob it of its power. Advertisements start to feel less like batter- 
ing rams of consumerism and more like the raw materials for art 
and critical reflection. Advertising firms may still generate much 
of culture’s raw content, but through detournement and related 
culture jamming tactics, we can reclaim a bit of autonomy from 
the mass-mediated hall of mirrors that we live in, and find artful 
ways to talk back to the spectacle and use its artifacts to amplify 
our own voices. 

POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Detournement is just a tactic, and like any 
tactic, it needs to be integrated into a larger strategy to be 
effective see PRINCIPLE: Choose tactics that support your strategy. 
While detournement can be a highly effective political tool, 
when divorced from a larger strategy, it can slide into a tool of 
complacency or complicity in the guise of resistance. There’s noth- 
ing wrong with taking savage pleasure in subverting grossly 
offensive media images, but take care to avoid using detourne- 
ment as merely a palliative or a substitute for organizing. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 


KNOW YOUR CULTURAL TERRAIN: As an act of semiotic sabotage, 
detournement requires the user to have fluency in the signs 
and symbols of contemporary culture. The better you know a 
culture, the easier it is to shift, repurpose, or disrupt it. To be 
successful, the media artifact chosen for detournement must 
be recognizable to its intended audience. Further, the saboteur 
must be familiar with the subtleties of the artifact’s original 
meaning in order to effectively create a new, critical meaning. 


at work 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 


Show, don't tell p. 174 


Make the invisible visible p. 152 


Reframe p. 168 


Brand or be branded p. 104 
Balance art and message p. 100 


Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 


Use others’ prejudices against them p. 192 


30 


TACTIC: Detournement/Culture jamming 



This altered iconic image undercuts Coca Cola's brand by evoking the company's violent labor-repression strategies. 


TACTIC: Detournement/Culture jamming 


31 



y Direct Action 


COMMON USES 

To shut things down; to open 
things up; to pressure a target; 
to re-imagine what’s possible; 
to intervene in a system; to 
empower people; to defend 
something good; to shine 
a spotlight on something bad. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Direct action gets the goods.” 

-Industrial Workers of the World 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Ruckus Society 
Civil rights movement 
Gandhi 
Antiwar movement 
Quakers 
Unions 
Jesus of Nazareth 
American Indian Movement 
Jewish resistance during the Holocaust 
The Boston Tea Party (original) 
Global justice movement 
Anti-nuclear movement 
Rastafarianism 
Gl resistance 
Immigrant rights 
Earth First 
ACT-UP 
Mitch Snyder 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


Direct action is at the heart 
of all human advancement. 

Sound like a grandiose claim? 

It is. But it’s also beautifully 
simple: direct action means 
that we take collective action 
to change our circumstances, 
without handing our power to 
a middle-person. 

We see instances of direct 
action in indigenous para- 
bles and stories, in the Bible, 

Torah and Koran, in every 
people’s movement and pop- 
ular revolution in modern 
history. Direct action is of- 
ten practiced by people who 
have few resources, seeking to 
liberate themselves from an 
injustice. 

People often conflate direct action with “getting ar- 
rested.” While sometimes getting arrested can amplify your 
message, or is strategically necessary to achieve your goal, it 
isn’t the point of direct action. (In most liberation struggles 
throughout history, “getting captured” is actually seen as a 
bad thing!) 

Similarly, people often conflate direct action with civil 
disobedience. Civil disobedience is a specific form of direct 
action that involves intentionally violating a law because 
that law is unjust — for instance, refusing to pay taxes that 
would fund a war, or refusing to comply with anti-immigrant 
legislation. In these circumstances, breaking the law is the 
purpose. With other kinds of direct action, laws may be bro- 
ken, but the law being broken isn’t the point. For example, 
we may be guilty of trespassing if we drop a banner from a 
building, but the violation is incidental: we aren’t there to 
protest trespassing laws. 

While associated with confrontation, direct action at 
its core is about power. Smart direct action assesses power 



W ' lLiff FIVEW> m0 


msum 





Direct action is a physical act that should be designed 
so that the story tells its self. It seeks to change power 
dynamics directly, rather than relying on others to 
make changes for us. 


TACTIC: Direct Action 


dynamics and finds a way to 
shift them. 

One way of thinking about 
power is that there are two 
kinds: organized money and or- 
ganized people. We don’t have 
billions of dollars to buy poli- 
ticians and governments, 


“Rather than 
deferring to others, 
we seek to change 
the dynamics of 
power directly. ” 

but with direct action orga- 
nized people spend a different currency: we leverage risk. We 
leverage our freedom, our comfort, our privilege or our safety. 

As Frederick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing 
without a demand.” Malcolm X elaborated, “Power never 
takes a step back, except in the face of more power.” Rather 
than deferring to others to make changes for us through 
votes or lobbying, we seek to change the dynamics of 
power directly. 



FURTHER INSIGHT 

Praxis Makes Perfect - Direct 
Action resources 

http://trb.la/Awdjso 

Gene Sharp's 198 methods 
of nonviolent action 

http://trb.la/yNUMG2 

Video, Book and Interactive Game on 
Direct Action: A Force More Powerful 

http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/ 

War Resisters' International 
handbook for nonviolent campaigns 

http://wri-irg.org/node/3855 

Alliance of Community Trainers 

http://www.trainersalliance.org/ 

Ruckus Society 

http://www.ruckus.org 

RANT Collective 

http://www.rantcollective.net 

Destructables, “Lockboxes" 

http://destructables.org/node/59 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Occupation p. 78 
Blockade p. 14 
Eviction blockade p. 44 
General strike p. 50 
Mass street action p. 68 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 

PRINCIPLES 

Take risks but take care p. 182 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Choose tactics that support 

your strategy p. 112 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

Put your target in a decision 

dilemma p. 166 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

If protest is made illegal, make 

daily life a protest p. 138 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

Turn the tables p. 190 

We are all leaders p. 202 

Don't dress like a protester p. 126 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 


TACTIC: Direct Action 



CASE STUDIES 


The salt march p. 354 
Battle in Seattle p. 28 6 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Justice for Janitors p. 326 
Turning streets into gardens p. 368 
Bidder 70 p. 290 
Reclaim the streets p. 350 
Daycare center sit-in p. 31 6 



Direct action is often practiced by people who have few resources, seeking to liberate themselves from an injustice. 
Image by Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) Collective. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Direct action involves significant levels of 
risk for all involved. It is imperative to be careful, conscious 
and deliberate about the risks you take. A good action plan- 
ner distinguishes between the risks she can (and should) 
minimize, and the ones she cannot, and will explain to all 
participants the potential consequences see PRINCIPLE: Take 
risks, but take care. 


KEY THEORY 

at work 

OTHER THEORIES AT WORK: 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Pillars of support p.248 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 


ACTION LOGIC: Because direct action is a physical act, it often 
speaks louder and deeper than anything you might say or 
write. Ideally, you should choose your target and design your 
action so that the action itself tells the story. 


34 


Theory: Direct Action 


NSTEAD OF WAGING AN ALL-OUT 


THE PRANKSTER 
SLIPS THROUGH 
THE GATES 
WEARING A 



— Art Tinnitus 


TACTIC: 


@ Distributed action 


COMMON USES 

To demonstrate the breadth, 
diversity and power of a 
movement; to swarm a large 
target in diverse locations. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 

Adbusters 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

International Solidarity work as 
Distributed Action for South Africa: 

http://trb.la/xlwDYd 

World AIDS Day Distributed Actions: 

http://www.worldaidsday.org/ 

350.org, “International Day of 
Climate Action" [2009] 

http://www.350.org/en/october24 

Billionaires for Bush, “Do-It-Yourself 
Manual" (2004) 

http://trb.la/wEe81W 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Phil Aroneanu 



October 24, 2009, marked the first 350 International Day of Climate Action, according to CNN " the most widespread 
day of political action in our planet's history." Pictured here, Poppy and Jarrah hold a 350 kick-board at the Great 
Barrier Reef. Photo by 350.org. 



350 International Day of Climate Action, Cairo. Photo by 350.org. 

We use the Internet for news, to be social, and to share infor- 
mation, but it can also be a radical tool for connecting people 
around the world in service to a common cause. That might 
mean signing your name to a petition, but it can also involve 


36 


TACTIC: Distributed action 



taking real world action in our 
own towns and cities. At its best, 
a distributed action projects the 
power of the movement and 
gives activists a sense of being 
part of a greater whole. This is a 
particularly useful tactic when a 
movement is young, dispersed, 
and minimally networked. 

There are a number of 
ways that distributed action 
can help propel a campaign 
forward and bring a critical 
issue to the fore, but here are a 
few key elements: 


11 A distributed action 
projects the power 
of the movement 
and gives activists 
a sense of being 
part of a greater 
whole.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Human banner p. 56 
Debt strike p. 24 
Artistic vigil p. 10 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 
Floating s ignifier p. 234 
Hashtag politics p. 238 
Points of intervention p. 250 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
The social cure p. 264 

CASE STUDIES 

Lysistrata project p. 330 
Stolen Beauty boycott campaign p. 364 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 
Yomango p. 400 


The day of action. A group of people create a call to action, 
and provide a meme see THEORY, message, or framework 
for others around the world to take similar action at the 
same time. The fact that the events all happen at the same 
time projects a sense of power and focuses attention on 
the issue at hand. Days (or weeks) of action can be high- 
ly disciplined and structured, or they can be more like a 
potluck dinner, where everybody brings the dish s/he feels 
like cooking up. Organizers might choose to invest time 
and energy in select “flag-ship” locations to help drive the 
story and take things to a higher level in a few spots. 

The call to action. A call to action should resonate not just 
with your core supporters and networks, but should tell a 
story that the general public will understand, and motivate 
new volunteer leaders to take to the streets. Depending 
on the situation, a call to action might have an embedded 
demand of political leaders, or it can simply be an expression 
of grievances, like the call to #occupywallstreet. 

Providing the tools. Hard work, a compelling story, and a 
healthy dose of inspiration are the most important elements 
of a successful distributed action. But it can be helpful to 
provide some extra resources for those activists who have 
never organized an action before. This can be as simple as 
posting a web link to a few tips, or as complex as offering 
in-person trainings and downloadable toolkits with posters, 

TACTIC: Distributed action 


37 


checklists, sample press releases and more. Some kinds of 
actions, especially those that involve nonviolent direct ac- 
tion, will require more support than others see PRINCIPLE: 
Take risks, but take care. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: By its nature a distributed action is risky. 
Not physically, but politically: You put out a call, and people 
you’ve never met respond and roll into action under your 
banner. Some folks may go way off message or do something 
foolish that requires you to engage in damage control. This is 
part of the risk using a tactic with such an open architecture, 
but should not discourage you from doing it. Most things will 
probably go swimmingly, but the more you follow the guide- 
lines above — a strong framework, clear call to action, and 
solid tools to help folks stay on track — the less likely you are 
to have problems. Many groups also use nonviolence guide- 
lines or a code of conduct that people agree to abide by when 
signing up online. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 17 6 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Create levels of participation web 
Delegate p. 122 
Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
Stay on message p. 178 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
This ain't the Sistene Chapel p. 188 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Consider your audience p. 118 


HOPE IS A MUSCLE A successful distributed action demands 
commitment from all involved. It’s easy to feel like nobody is 
listening. Distributed action runs on inspiration, momentum, 
hope and hard work. If you tell a story that resonates, pour your 
utmost efforts into empowering others to take action, and keep 
a positive and fun outlook, you can pull off a great and successful 
distributed action. 


TACTIC: Distributed action 



An aerial view of the 344 Oust short of 350) people at the Gibsons, B.C, Canada rally. The 350 day of action was the 
largest distributed action ever recorded. Image by 350.org 


TACTIC: Distributed action 


39 



w Electoral guerrilla theater 


COMMON USES 

Running for public office as a 
creative prank - not to win the 
election, but to get attention 
for a radical critique of policy or 
to sabotage the campaign of a 
particularly heinous candidate. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Reverend Billy & the Church 
of Earthalujah 
The Dutch Provos 
The Dutch Kabouters 
Pauline Pantsdown of Australia 
Jello Biafra 
Michael Moore [“Ficus 2000") 
Joan JettBlakk [“Lick Bush in ‘92") 
Christof Schlingensief [Chance 
2000, Germany) 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Stephen Colbert Super PAC 

http://www.colbertsuperpac.com/ 

World AIDS Day Distributed Actions: 

http://www.worldaidsday.org/ 

L. M. Bogad, Electoral Guerrilla 
Theater: Radical Ridicule and Social 
Movements [ New York: Routled ge, 2005) 

L. M. Bogad, “Billy Versus Bloomy: 
Electoral Guerrilla theater In New York 
City." In Byproduct: On the Excess of 
Embedded Art Practices, edited by 
Marisa John [Toronto: YYZ Books, 2010) 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

L. M. Bogad 


A group of eco-anarchist “gnomes” running for city council in 
Amsterdam; Reverend Billy, an anti-consumerist performance 
artist, running for mayor of New York City; a drag queen run- 
ning for the Australian senate as the queer doppleganger of 
far-right racist politician Pauline Hanson. These are all exam- 
ples of electoral guerrilla theater, in which creative activists 
run for public office to inspire critique of the electoral system 
or the choices on offer. 

The term electoral guerrilla yokes two seemingly incompati- 
ble approaches. Electoral activists work within the state’s most 
accepted and conventional avenues in an attempt to reform 
the system peacefully. Guerrillas, in the military sense, exist 
on the extreme margins of the social system, constantly on 
the move, launching surprise attacks against the state before 
disappearing again. This contradiction is what makes electoral 
guerrilla theater a wild cardin the repertoire of resistance, both 
for the target and the activist. 

It is an unstable and problem- 
atic combination that can take 
all players involved by surprise. 

Winning is rarely the goal. 

However, by piggybacking on 
the massive media attention 
that elections gather, a clever 
guerrilla campaign can attract 
much more public attention 
than might otherwise be pos- 
sible. Craft a compelling and 
funny character that fits your 
critique, say, a pro-corporate pi- 
rate who wants to get in on the 
easy plunder that Wall Street 
has been enjoying, for example. Craft your persona, and start 
crashing mainstream political events — or make a scene when 
you are prevented from crashing. Even better, earn more scan- 
dalous attention by crashing your absurdity through the front 
door of the power structure by getting a slot in an “equal time” 
debate, or getting on the ballot with your silly character name, 
or getting interviewed by the straight media in character. 


me power or me 
electoral guerrilla 
is in great part the 
fact that you 
are not trying to 
win state power 
but to call its 
core premises 
into question ” 


TACTIC: Electoral guerrilla theater 


Related: 



TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Media-jacking p. 72 
Identity correction p. 60 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
White plan web 
Hoax p. 54 
Guerrilla theater web 
Street theater web 

THEORIES 

Alienation effect p. 210 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Floating signifier p. 234 

CASE STUDIES 

The Nihilist Democratic Party p. 342 


Joan Jett Blakk ran a militant, queer campaign for President in 1992. Photo by Marc Geller. 

Couple things to keep in mind: 

Do what they do but with a critical difference see THEORY: 
Alienation effect. If you’re doing this right, by absurdly 
aping the cliches of the “proper” candidates you can call 
attention to the fact that they are just as socially-constructed 
and fake as your pirate/gnome/witch/etc. Cut ribbons. 
Kiss babies. Bring out the empty symbolism of these 
rituals, and insert your own radical critique, alternative 
meanings to them with a few quick jokes. 

Combine serious and playful elements in your election platform. 
You should actually have a serious point you’re making, and 
in the middle of all the absurdity and pranks, while you’ve 
got people’s attention, make that point. Jello Biafra did a 


41 


TACTIC: Electoral guerrilla theater 


★ ★ ★ ★ VOTE ★ ★ ★ ★ 


^BILLY TALEN 


GREEN PARTY Candidate 
for MAYOR of NYC 



★★★★★★★★★★★ 

Find out more at VoteRevBilly.org 


Reverend Billy Talen for Mayor of NYC. Photo: brennan cavanaugh. Graphics by Emily Schuch. 


greatjob illustrating this principle during his run for mayor 
of San Francisco in 1979. Some of his “if I am elected” 
platform made folks laugh bitterly; some planks — like 
suggesting that beat cops be elected by the neighborhoods 
they patrol — made folks think “hmmm. ..actually that’s 


42 


TACTIC: Electoral guerrilla theater 


not a bad idea.” Get people’s attention with humor and fol- 
low up with a few simple, radical, The-World-We-Want-to- 
See ideas see TACTIC: Prefigurative intervention. In this way 
you’re not just talking about what you’re against, but what 
you’re for. 

When done right, electoral guerrilla theater is serious play at its best. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: If there is a candidate running that you 
actually do support, take care to craft your campaign in such 
a way that it amplifies theirs, or at least doesn’t interfere with 
it. Don’t let your satire upstage your ally to the point that it 
detracts from their campaign. 


MAKE IT FUNNY: Don’t forget this is a joke. Elections are a 
seductive power ritual. If you are doing well as an electoral 
guerrilla, you’ll get a lot of attention due to your clever, 
critical pranks and incursions into the held of “legitimate” 
debate. This may lead to you or members of your crew to 
think, “hey, we might actually win; let’s tone this down and 
get more respectable.” The campaign then becomes just like 
the other boring candidacies, except without the money or 
insider connections. Yawn. The end. The power of the elec- 
toral guerrilla is in great part the fact that you are not trying 
to win state power but to call its core premises into question. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Use your radical fringe to slide 

the Overton window p. 200 

Stay on message p. 178 

Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 160 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Reframe p. 1 68 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 19 6 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Bring the issue home p. 106 

Balance art and message p. 100 

Put your target In a decision dilemma p.1 66 


TACTIC: Electoral guerrilla theater 



TACTIC: 


Eviction blockade 


COMMON USES 

To organize a strong show 
of physical resistance to an 
unjust eviction; to force a moral 
confrontation with a system 
that operates amorally. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Home is where the heart is.” 

-Proverb 

PRACTITIONERS 

Take Back the Land [USA] 
Landless Workers Movement [M ST, Brazil) 
Western Cape Anti-Eviction 
Campaign [South Africa) 
Abahlali baseMjondolo [South Africa) 
City Life/ Vida Urbana [USA) 
Occupy Our Homes [USA] 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

City Life /Vida Urbana, “Resources" 

http://clvu.org/resources 

Occupy Our Homes, “Resources: 
How to defending your home" 

http://occupyourhomes.org/resources/ 

Video: “Michael Moore's ‘Capitalism, 
A Love Story': ‘You Be Squatters 
in Your Own Home”' 

http://trb.la/zpgVWF 

Eviction Stoppers of Spain 
[article and video) 

http://trb.la/zKaVgT 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Ryan Acuff 


44 


It was a cold March morning in Rochester, NY, when the city 
marshal approached 9 Ravenwood Avenue in an attempt to car- 
ry out what he thought would be a routine eviction. Instead, 
he was met with eighty people holding signs and banners 
protesting the foreclosure and imminent displacement of the 
Lennon-Griffin family, including grandmother Catherine 
Lennon, her three daughters, and eight small grandchil- 
dren. Four people were chained to the stairs of the house. 
Next to them was a large sign that read, “We shall not be 
moved.” The eviction blockade had been organized by the 
anti-poverty group Take Back the Land. 

The marshal left as quickly as he came, later saying, “this 
is not what I signed up for.” He would not return for weeks. 

Eviction blockades are as old as evictions themselves, 
and like evictions, they tend to surge in numbers in times of 
economic hardship. In response to the Great Depression in 
the U.S., for instance, the National Unemployment Council 
— founded in Chicago in 1930 — formed hundreds of local 
branches to organize eviction blockades across the country. 
From January to June 1932, 185,794 families in New York City 
received eviction notices, and the Unemployment Council 
helped an estimated 77,000 of those families keep their 
homes. The eviction blockade can be an extraordinarily 
effective tactic when it has community support, when it is 
embedded within a larger movement or campaign, and when 
it is linked to winnable demands. 

In the case of the Lennon-Griffin family, mortgage holder 
Fannie Mae eventually pushed the City of Rochester to 
conduct a SWAT-like operation to break the blockade and 
forcibly remove the family. The eviction created a terrifying 
spectacle: Special Operations officers stormed the house, 
crime scene tape was wrapped around the area, traffic en- 
forcement officers blocked access by supporters and media. 
The police arrested seven people, including an elderly neigh- 
bor across the street in her pajamas. Though the eviction went 
ahead, the family’s plight and the actions and goals of the move- 
ment were elevated to a new prominence, and more families in 
the community stepped forward to defend their homes with evic- 


TACTIC: Eviction blockade 


Related: 



Marshall Cooper, 75, protests the national conference of the American Bankers Association in Copley Square, Boston in October 
of 2010. Cooper's home in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston was foreclosed on in early 2010. Photo by Kelly Creedon. 

tion blockades. The eviction cost the city an estimated $9,000 — 
one third the value of the original mortgage. 

The negative publicity of breaking a community-supported 
eviction blockade tends to make local governments and banks 
more reticent to repeat violent evictions in the future. For exam- 
ple, just five weeks after Catherine Lennon was evicted, she public- 
ly moved back into her house without the bank’s permission and 
with zero police interference. 

In the wake of a property bubble that saw the banks bailed out 
while homeowners were left to fend for themselves, the tactic is an 
increasingly effective one for social movements everywhere. In the 
summer of 2011 the Indignados movement in Spain shifted its ac- 
tions from public squares to neighborhoods, organizing eviction 
blockades across the country. Six months later, the Occupy move- 
ment followed suit. The organizing potential for such actions is as 
vast as the injustice it seeks to confront. 


TACTICS 

Blockade p. 14 
Direct action p. 32 
Debt strike p. 24 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 

Expressive and instrumental actions p. 232 

Homo q & homos p. 236 

Debt revolt p. 226 

The commons p. 220 

Capitalism p. 216 


PUT YOUR TARGET IN A DECISION DILEMMA: Effective eviction 
blockades create a decision dilemma for banks and local gov- 
ernments. If they call off the eviction, the family stays and 
the movement grows. If they go ahead with the eviction and 
break the blockade, they dramatically highlight fundamental 
injustices in the system and raise awareness of the movement. 


1 As of December 2011, Catherine Lennon and her family were still in their home and it seemed likely the 
family will find a permanent settlement with Fannie Mae and Bank of America to stay in their home. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Debtors of the world, unite! p. 120 
Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Take leadership from the most impacted p. 180 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 


TACTIC: Eviction blockade 


45 




COMMON USES 

To organize a show of dissent 
on short notice; to quickly 
replicate a successful tactic in a 
dispersed yet coordinated way; 
to create a shared moment 
of random kindness and 
senseless beauty. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Improv Everywhere 
Critical Mass 
April 6th Movement 
Newmindspace 
Adbusters 

Revolution through the Social Network 
Allan Kaprow 
UK Uncut 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Know Your Meme, “Flash Mob" 

http://trb.la/ybFWol 

End the Occupation, “8.D.S. Song/ Dance 
Flash Mob: Step-by-Step How-To Kit" 

http://trb.la/zXeGst 

Mondoweiss, “Mondo Award Winner, 
First Runner-Up: Rae Abileah and 
Colleen Kelly for Flashmob" 

http://trb.la/yRnZdb 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Dave Oswald Mitchell 
Andrew Boyd 


46 



Pillow fight on Wall Street, organized by Newmindspace in 2009. The widely circulated invitation read simply: “Bring a 
pillow to Wall St & Broad St at 3:00pm. Dress in business suits, demand your bailout." 

A flash mob is an unrehearsed, spontaneous, contagious, and 
dispersed mass action. Flash mobs first emerged in 2003 as a form 
of participatory performance art, with groups of people using 
email, blogs, text messages, and Twitter to arrange to meet and 
perform some kind of playful activity in a public location. More rec- 
ently, activists have begun to harness the political potential of flash 
mobs for organizing spontaneous mass actions on short notice. 

Flash mobs have recently become a powerful tactic for political 
protest, particularly under repressive conditions. In the midst of a 
harsh crackdown on protests in Belarus in 2011, for instance, dissi- 
dents calling themselves “Revolution through the Social Network” 
began organizing impromptu demonstrations where protesters 
would simply gather in public spaces and clap their hands in unison. 
The result was the bewildering sight of secret police brutally arrest- 
ing people for the simple act of clapping their hands — a powerful 
challenge to the legitimacy of an increasingly irrational regime. 

The overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt also 
involved flash-mob-like tactics, with organizers calling for pro- 
testers to gather initially in alleys and other protected spaces for 
safety before moving into the streets in larger and larger numbers. 
Blogger Patrick Meier explains the thinking behind this approach: 

Starting small and away from the main protests is a safe 

way to pool protesters together. It’s also about creating an 

TACTIC: Flash Mob 


iterative approach to a “strength in numbers” dynamic. 

As more people crowd the smaller streets, this gives a 
sense of momentum and confidence. Starting in alleyways 
localizes the initiative. People are likely neighbors and join 
because they see their friend or sister out in the street. 1 2 3 

Another example of effective use of the flash mob tactic is 
UK Uncut. In October 2010, one week after the British govern- 
ment announced massive cuts to public services, seventy people 
occupied a Vodaphone store in London to draw attention to the 
company’s record of unpaid taxes. The idea quickly went viral: 
within three days, over thirty Vodaphone stores had been shut 
down around the country by flash mobs organizing over Twitter 
using the hashtag #ukuncut. 

The revolutionary potential for dispersed, coordinated action 
using flash mob tactics has only begun to be realized. As Micah 
White wrote in Adbusters: 

Fun, easy to organize, and resistant to both infiltration 
and preemption because of their friend-to-friend network 
topology, flash mobs are positioned to be the next popular 
tactic with revolutionary potential. . . . With flash mobs, 
activists have the potential to swarm capitalism globally. 4 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Creative disruption p. 18 
Guerrilla musical web 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Carnival protest web 
Mass street action p. 68 
Distributed action p. 26 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 
Movement as network web 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 

CASE STUDIES 

Orange Alternative web 
UK/US Uncut web 


SIMPLE RULES CAN HAVE GRAND RESULTS: Whether it ’s a mass 
pillow fight (bring a pillow, hit anyone else carrying a pillow), 
or a bank shut-down (get in line, ask the teller for your entire 
account balance in pennies, and be disarmingly polite), the in- 
vitation to participate in a flash mob is easy to share, but when 
multiplied by tens or hundreds of people, can lead to complex, 
dispersed and powerfully effective actions. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

No one wonts to watch o drum circle p. 156 

Enable, don’t command p. 132 

If protest is illegal, make daily 

life a protest p. 138 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 154 


1 The understanding of “flash mobs” that has filtered into popular culture is generally limited to surprise 
choreographed dance routines performed in public. But for organizing purposes, those carefully cho- 
reographed stunts are better described as “guerrilla" than “flash.” see TACTIC: Guerrilla Musicals. The 
distinct characteristics of a flash mob - an unrehearsed, spontaneous, contagious, and dispersed mass 
action - has its own unique advantages, and requires a different set of organizing principles than a 
surprise choreographed dance routine requires. 

2 “Dozens Arrested in Belarus ‘Clapping’ Protest,” Al Jazeera English, July 3, 2011. 

3 “Civil Resistance Tactics Used in Egypt’s Revolution,” irevolution, Feb. 7, 2011. http://irevolution. 
net/2011/02/27/tactics-egypt-revolution-jan25. 

4 Micah White, "To the Barricades,” Adbusters 94 (March/April 2011). 


TACTIC: Flash Mob 


JJ Forum theater 


COMMON USES 

Forum theater is a tool for 
exploring and rehearsing 
possible actions that people can 
take to transform their world. 
It’s often used both in prepa- 
ration to taking action and in 
anti-oppression workshops. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Julian Boat 
Brent Blair 
Cheryl Harrison 
Mark Weinburg 
Mark Weinblatt 
Rosa Gonzales 
Melina Bobadilla 
Practicing Freedom 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Boo/, Augusto. Games for Actors and 
Non-Actors. London: Routledge, 1992. 

Boat, Augusto. Theater of the 
Oppressed. New York: Theater 
Communications Group, 1993. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Levana Saxon 


“The point is not to 
show what we 
think other people 
should do - it 
is not theater of 
advice. The point 
is to discover 
what we can do. ” 


Forum theater is one of the more commonly used tools from Theater 
of the Oppressed. It begins with the crafting and performance 
of a short play that dramatizes 
real situations faced by the par- 
ticipants and that ends with the 
protagonist(s) being oppressed. 

After the first performance, the 
play or scene is repeated with 
one crucial difference: the spec- 
tators become “spect-actors” and 
can at any point yell “freeze” and 
take the place of an actor to at- 
tempt to transform the outcome. 

Forum theater is an exercise in 
democracy in which anyone can 
speak and anyone can act. 

One of the first things that spect-actors realize is that, as in 
life, if they don’t intervene, nothing will change. The next thing 
spect-actors find is that doing “something” is not enough, it must 
be a strategic something. The people acting as oppressors on 
stage will maintain their oppression until they are authentically 
stopped — and just like in life, stopping them isn’t easy. Forum 
theater thus becomes a laboratory to experiment with different 
courses of action. 

The protagonists should be characters that all or most of the 
people in the room can identify with, so that when they intervene, 
they are rehearsing their own action. The point is not to show what 
we think other people should do — it is not theater of advice. The 
point is to discover what we can do. 

Forum theater is facilitated by someone called a Joker, who en- 
gages the spect-actors both on and off stage in dialogue through- 
out the process. After an intervention, the Joker may ask, “Did this 
work?”, “Was this realistic?”, “Can you do this in real life?” 

Forum theater was developed in a context in which it was very 
clear what the oppression was, who was oppressed and who the op- 
pressors were: its originator, Augusto Boal, was living in exile from 
the Brazilian military dictatorship, and social movements across 
the continent were struggling against harsh military repression. 
Since then, the technique has been adapted to countless other 


TACTIC: Forum theater 


Related: 



TACTICS 

Image theater p. 62 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Guerrilla theater web 
Street theater web 

THEORIES 

Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 


Participants in a Theater of the Oppressed program in Toronto, Canada, run by In Forma Theater. The months-long 
program addresses life transitions related to family, migration, resettlement and loss. Photo by Adam Perry. 


contexts around the world, as practitioners seek to grapple with 
the complicated power relationships of more diverse groups of 
people. Often interventions will uncover multiple layers of power, 
dramatizing characters who are simultaneously oppressed and 
oppressing others. 

Forum theater is an effective tool of creative activism, useful 
for generating interventions, as an intervention itself, and for 
building common strategic frameworks for movements. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: The role of the Joker is a tricky one. It is easy 
to leave the group with false optimism about what can work, or 
to run out of time before everyone is satisfied with what has been 
attempted. The Joker must make many small decisions in every 
moment, such as whether or not to allow the introduction of addi- 
tional characters, whether or not to add interventions upon other 
interventions, how many interventions to allow, when to stop an 
intervention when it’s not going anywhere, and so on. 

Another pitfall is to use forum theater to generate solutions 
and then fail to act on them: forum theater “works” to the extent that 
it prepares participants to intervene critically in their own lives. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Praxis makes perfect p. 162 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 


TACTIC: Forum theater 


y General strike 


COMMON USES 

To put effective pressure 
on a corporate or political 
target by shutting down 
business as usual; to 
overcome the challenges 
of organizing vulnerable 
workers in isolated sectors. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Win or lose, mass strikes 
reveal the truth.” 

-Jeremy Brecher, Strike! 


PRACTITIONERS 

Justice for Janitors campaign 
Service Employees International Union 
Occupy Oakland 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Seattle General Strike of 1919 

http://trb.la/wMXduW 

Movie :"The Corporation" 

http://trb.la/xltXye 

Strike! Famous Worker 
Uprisings (in pictures) 

http://trb.la/xmAfET 

Jeremy Brecher. Strike! Boston: 
( South End Press, 1997) 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Stephen Lerner 


One-day general strikes, like 
those that took place in the UK 
and Oakland in November 2011, 
are primarily symbolic protests, 
more focused on making a po- 
litical point than creating real 
economic pressure. To harness 
the tactic’s true potential, gen- 
eral strikes need to escalate from 
symbolic one-day protests to 
ongoing actions that last days 
and potentially weeks, with a 
clear goal of inflicting both eco- 
nomic and political damage un- 
til the strikers’ demands are met. 

Strikes can be a powerful 
weapon for shifting the balance lww Sabo Cat tells us t0 . strike! , lllustration by Eric 
of power in workplaces and 0moker - 

points of production. By withholding their labor and stopping 
work from continuing, generations of workers over the last 150 
years have won better wages, working conditions, and basic 
bargaining rights. 

It is too easy, however, to romanticize the idea of strikes and 
general strikes. Due to the increasing concentration of trans- 
national corporate power and various laws limiting workers 
rights, most strikes in the United States are now small and rarely 
successful rearguard actions to resist wage and benefit cuts. 
Workers need to creatively reinvent the tactic if strikes are again 
going to be an effective weapon to win justice. In particular, 
workers need to recognize, and harness, the power of general 
and cross-industry strikes. 

The city-wide general strikes ofjanitors in Los Angles (2000), 
Boston (2002) and Houston (2006) are one example of how an 
industry-wide general strike successfully forced powerful corpo- 
rations hiding behind cleaning subcontractors to meet the de- 
mands of tens of thousands of striking janitors. Undocumented 
immigrant janitors were able to use sit-ins, street blockades and 
nonviolent civil disobedience, backed by supporters around the 
world, to build movements that could win. At various points, 



TACTIC: General strike 



striking workers and their sup- 
porters effectively shut down 
business-as-usual in the business 
districts of the cities. The strikes, 
pitting poor janitors against rich 
landlords, won massive public 
support and saw the workers’ 
demands met. 

Key to the success was the 
fact that striking janitors con- 
tinued to escalate their tactics. 

Instead of just engaging in 
picketing at their work site, each 
janitor, liberated from work by the strike, became a full-time 
organizer, campaigning against the corporations and politi- 
cians that control and profit from the real estate industry the 
workers were targeting. In Los Angeles, that meant literally 
thousands of striker/organizers working full-time, day in and 
day out, organizing demonstrations that shut down streets and 
occupied office buildings while mobilizing community and 
ecumenical support. 

The strikingjanitors learned firsthand that small, isolated 
strikes are rarely effective, but that going on a city-wide gener- 
al strike, even in large numbers, doesn’t alone lead to victory 
either. To win, strikers need to have a clear understanding 
of the target and its vulnerabilities, and develop a plan to ex- 
ploit those vulnerabilities. No one action or tactic will provide 
enough pressure. There needs to be constant, creative and 
courageous escalation. 


instead or just 
engaging in 
picketing at their 
work site , each 
worker, liberated 
from work by the 
strike, became a 
full-time organizer." 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Mass street action p. 68 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Community unionism web 

CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 
Justice for Janitors [DC] p. 326 


CHOOSE YOUR TARGET WISELY: Successful workplace actions 
depend on choosing the right target and determining how best 
to apply pressure on that target. The most vulnerable target 
may not always be the most obvious one — the janitors had far 
more success in targeting the real estate companies in which 
they worked, rather than the shadowy subcontractors who 
were their direct employers, and who were far less vulnerable 
to public pressure and bad press. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

We are all leaders p. 202 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 280 
Create levels of participation web 
Make cross-class alliances web 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Escalate strategically p. 134 


TACTIC: General strike 


51 


B 


Guerrilla projection 


COMMON USES 

To broadcast a message; to 
frame an action; to rebrand a 
target; to entertain a crowd. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
Agit-Pop 
Students for a Free Tibet 
Glass Bead Collective 
Dawn of Man 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

InterOccupy, “Occupy ‘Bat 
Signal' Source Files": 

http://interoccupy.org/occupy-bat-signal/ 

Video: Graffiti Research 
Lab “All You See Is..." 

http://trb. la/zpgVWF 

Video: “Anti War Guerrilla Projection at 
Ground Zero 4th Anniversary of Iraq War" 

http://trb.la/xBZvLs 

Video: “Projectionists Light Up New York 
City Buildings, and Protesters’ Spirits, 
with Occupy-Themed Display.” Democracy 
Now, November 18, 2011. 

http://trb.la/AcfNAg 

Flash: Light [innovative projection 
art project in New York City] 

http://www.flashlightnyc.org/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Samantha Corbin 
Mark Read 


Guerrilla projection, pioneered by artists and advertisers, has been 
increasingly embraced by activists in recent years as a new medium 
for delivering messages. The advantages are obvious: with a single 
high-powered projector, you can turn the side of a building into 
a huge advertisement for your ((i ifi | >If 

cause, plastering your message 
on a spot that would otherwise 
be out of reach. It’s legally ko- 
sher, relatively cheap and risk free 
compared to, say, trespassing onto 
a building’s roof to hang a banner 
off of it. Most importantly, it’s vi- 
sually powerful: you can literally 
shine a light on the opposition. 

Projections can be low-fi or 
hi-fi; mobile or stable. Two 
jerry-riggers can do one out of the back of their car to cap- 
ture a quick hit-and-run photo op, or a professional VJ can 
project from a more stable plug-in location to entertain a 
crowd of thousands see CASE: 99% bat signal. They’re also a 
perfect tactic for rebranding your target. Greenpeace pro- 
jected a huge cartoon “KABLOOM” onto the side of a nuclear 
reactor to remind people how dangerous nuclear power 
can be, and a “We have nuclear weapons on board” onto 
a nuclear equipped air craft carrier that was refusing to 
acknowledge it. In 1993, the Academy Award-winning docu- 
mentary, “Deadly Deception,” was projected directly onto 
the San Francisco TV station that was refusing to air it, while 
hundreds watched, eating popcorn. Under pressure, the station 
relented and aired the him. 

Much of the power of projections is in the medium itself. Un- 
like hanging a banner, a projection can move and change, and 
even be interactive. With a medium so versatile, why limit yourself 
to static slogans? On the eve of the Great American Smokeout in 
1994, INFACT hit the Philip Morris building in New York with a 
running count of the number of children addicted to cigarettes. 
With simple online tools, your projection can become interactive 
and crowd-sourced. Supporters on the street — or a continent 
away — can text, tweet or email in their own messages to be 


wiw a guerrilla 
projection you 
can literally shine 
a light on the 
opposition, you can 
enter their space 
and rebrand it ” 


TACTIC: General strike 


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Greenpeace Nuclear Free Seas campaign: British 
aircraft carrier Ark Royal in Hamburg harbor. 
© Greenpeace / Vennemann, Dieter 


across a corporate HQ in real 
field. Small voices are writ km 


projected in real time. With a 
laser pointer, people on the 
street can write messages to oth- 
ers inside a building, whether 
they’re friends and family in jail 
or a CEO in his corner office. 

Projections help us up- 
end the power dynamic. The 
buildings of the powerful can 
feel so big and our voices and 
protest signs so small. But when 
a huge “99 %” bat signal lights 
up the night sky, or you see 
your own handwriting scrawled 
me, it begins to level the playing 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Human banner p. 56 
Banner hang p. 12 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Media-jacking p. 72 
Mass street action p. 68 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 

CASE STUDIES 

99% bat signal p. 278 
Koch guerrilla drive-in web 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: The technology is very powerful, “spec- 
tacular” in nature, and often under the control of one person 
or a small group who could potentially manipulate a large and 
impressionable crowd. This power needs to be kept accountable 
to the broader group, and should be wielded with great care. 


BALANCE ART AND MESSAGE: When designing your action, let your 
imagination range far and wide. Consider, in particular, its site- 
specific nature, and look for ways the medium itself can highlight 
your message. Consider all the artful elements at work in the 
2008 Free Tibet projection on the Chinese consulate in New 
York: the persecuted Tibetan activist was at that moment liter- 
ally in hiding a world away, yet was able to speak directly to — 
and literally on — a massive institution that was complicit in his 
repression. His handwriting splaying across the marble facade 
in real time was at once defiant and intimate. His private act of 
dissent had become not just public but beautiful. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Stay on message p. 178 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Think narratively p. 186 
Reframe p. 168 


TACTIC: General strike 



Hoax 


COMMON USES 

To create a momentary 
illusion that exposes injustice 
through satirical exaggeration, 
or that demonstrates how 
another reality is possible. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Sometimes it takes a lie 
to expose the truth.” 

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War 

PRACTITIONERS 

Daniel Dafoe 
Alan Abel 
Joey Skaggs 
Abbie Hoffman and The Yippies 
The Yes Men 
Mark Thomas 
Sacha Baron Cohen 
Paul Krassner 
The Provo s 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Yes Lab 

http://yeslab.org/ 

A. Juno & V. Vale. Pranks! San 
Francisco: RE/Search, 1987. 

Mark Dery, “The Merry Pranksters and the 
Art of the Hoax", New York Times, 1990. 

http://trb. la/ynjM4a 

Destructables “Make Your Own 
Newspaper Headlines" 

http://trb. la/w6s9P8 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mike Bonanno 


On April 15, 2011, when General Electric announced that 
the company would return its illegitimate (but legal) $3.2 
billion tax refund, and also lobby to close the sort of corpo- 
rate tax loopholes that had allowed them to dodge taxes in 
the first place, it seemed too good to be true. When was the 
last time a major American corporation took such a moral 
leadership role? 

Um, never! The announce- 
ment was a hoax, created by 
the tax fairness group U.S. 

Uncut, with some help from 
The Yes Lab. On this occasion, 
the core of the action was a 
simple press release that mas- 
queraded as a real one from 
General Electric. An Associ- 
ated Press writer, as eager as 
the rest of America to believe that such a thing could be true, 
picked it up and sent it over the wire. It only took minutes to 
be debunked, but in the media storm it created (including a 
temporary $3 billion plunge in GE stock value), U.S. Uncut 
was able to make their point, at a scale usually only granted to 
those who can pay for the privilege. 

Hoaxes are one way for activists to “buy” some airtime 
that they can’t afford. Instead of complaining that the 
press is set up to give voice to the interests of the power- 
ful see THEORY: Propaganda model, the hoax puts that bias 
to work. By speaking as the powerful, and telling a more 
interesting story than the powerful usually do, one can 
often commandeer a pretty big soapbox. After the hoax 
is revealed (usually within minutes or hours) then the 
activists can explain themselves to the public in their own 
true voices, with the help of the usually massive numbers of 
journalists all stirred up by the trick that’s just been played 
on the powerful. 

It is generally best to reveal a hoax promptly. The ul- 
timate goal here is more truth for more people. At the 
Yes Lab, we have an ethos: Never leave a lie on the table. This 
ethos is the opposite MO of those in power. The grand hoaxes 


wiw notnmg 
more than a 
website, a phone 
line, and some 
gumption, anyone 
can be anyone.” 


TACTIC: Hoax 



they perpetrate on the people 
— everything from simple gre- 
enwashing campaigns to com- 
plex conspiracies to subvert de- 
mocracy — are never meant to 
be debunked. Activists, on the 
other hand, generally reveal 
their hoaxes at the earliest op- 
portunity. Speaking of which, 
the epigraph for this entry is 
not from Sun Tzu. It’s from 
the DVD box of The Yes Men Fix 
the World, 


Liz, Scott and Andy display the hoax “Iraq War Ends” 
edition of the New York Times. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: There is always a certain segment of the 
population that despises the idea of a lie, regardless of the in- 
tent. If you are trying to appeal to this small, sanctimonious, 
and usually left-wing group, you may want to think twice. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Image theater p. 62 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Infiltration p. 64 
Identity correction p. 60 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
The propaganda model p. 256 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Society of the spectacle p. 266 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Political identity paradox p. 254 

CASE STUDIES 

Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p. 318 
The Big Donor Show p. 294 
The Couple in the Cage p. 312 
Bidder 70 p. 290 

New York Times “Special Edition” web 
The Yes Men Pose as Exxon web 


USE THE JEDI MIND TRICK: With nothing more than a website, a KEY PRINCIPLE 

phone line, and some gumption, anyone can be anyone. Just at work 

use the Force ! 


1 In 1991 the PR company Hill and Knowlton created a fake story on behalf of the Kuwaiti government 
about Iraqi soldiers taking premature babies out of incubators after the invasions of Kuwait, their 
story and manufactured “eyewitness accounts” won Bush Sr. the U.S. public support he needed to 
invade Iraq, that hoax was never meant to be revealed, but thanks to investigative journalists, tbe 
truth eventually came out. that’s just one example. For more, see gregpalast.com. 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

The real action is your target’s reaction web 
Anyone can act p. 98 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Reframe p. 168 

Choose you target wisely p. 114 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 

Think narratively p. 186 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Seek common ground p. 170 

Team up with experts p. 184 

Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 160 

Make it funny web 


TACTIC: Hoax 


TACTIC: 

Human banner 


COMMON USES 

To make a single, unified 
statement with thousands 
of people. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
John Quigley 
Brad Newsham 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Human Banners SF, “Over 1000 
Spell Out ‘Tax the 1%"' 

http://www.humanbannersf.com/ 

Meloncoyote, “Foreign Mining 
Operations Soundly Rejected” 

http://trb.la/yZBneq 

CBS News, "Anti-Wall Street Protests 
Coast-to-Coast: Washington, D.C." 

http://trb.la/xkWLTq 

Greenpeace, “Giant Melting da Vinci 
Artwork Recreated on Arctic Sea Ice” 

http://trb.la/wKZ7o4 


There’s no law saying that the 
revolution can’t be fun — and 
human banners are excruci- 
atingly fun. No chanting, no 
harangues; just hundreds of 
people using their bodies to 
form enormous words or an im- 
age in order to send a message. 

I’ve helped create ten hu- 
man banners, with crowds 
ranging from 300 to 1,500. 
Each event was powerful, 
cathartic, and the feedback 
was always something along 
the lines of: “The most enjoy- 
able, most fun, best demon- 
stration I’ve ever been to!” 

The human banner is a 
powerful, expressive tactic. It 
has some of the political virtues 
of a rally: it turns out numbers 


“A human banner 
can be spur of 
the moment - 
a milling crowd 
can be quickly 
arranged and 
photographed from 
a nearby building 
or lamppost - 
but conscientious 
planning can 
produce staggering 
works of aerial art. " 


Iowa National Guard, 
“The Camp Dodge Story” 

http://trb. Ia/x2qt51 

Spectral Q: Collaborative Art 
for the Common Good 

http://spectralq.com/Home.html 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Brad Newsham 


CODEPINK 2006. 



TACTIC: Human banner 



Related: 



TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Artistic vigil p. 10 
Banner hang p. 12 
Art intervention web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 


"Tax the 1%” human banner organized by The Other 98%, 2011. ( The other 1% remains unaccounted for.) 

that physically demonstrate public support and the movement’s 
ability to mobilize, but it does so with elegance, like a work of 
art. 

It works well for media coverage, too. Journalists need fresh 
story angles and compelling visuals, and the human banner 
delivers: it’s unusual, remarkable, notable, people-powered, 
and made up of a thousand individual human interest stories. 
And when composed correctly, it delivers the money shot the 
media is always looking for: a single iconic photo that speaks 
for itself, that tells the whole story on its own see THEORY: Ac- 
tion Logic. 

A human banner can be spur of the moment — a mill- 
ing crowd can be quickly arranged and photographed from 
a nearby building or lamppost — but conscientious planning 
can produce staggering works of aerial art. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your 
human banner: 

The slogan/image: Your image needs to communicate your 
message concisely and powerfully. Words and symbols are 
easiest to lay out, pictures trickier. You want viewers to get 
your message on first blink, and gasp at its beauty, audac- 
ity, and clarity. 

The site: An iconic background anchors your photo to a 
place. Murals can be created on sand (etch the outlines 


TACTIC: Human banner 


57 



before the crowd arrives), on grass (mark it with ropes or 
string), on pavement (chalk). A football field-sized area 
works well. My preferred font size for lettering is 100 feet 
tall, ten feet wide. 

Photography: Video is nice, but getting at least one great 
photo is your goal. A helicopter gives optimal photograph- 
ic maneuverability, but other possibilities include small 
planes, tall buildings, cranes and camera-balloons. 

Crowd: You’ll definitely want enough folks to fill in your 
lettering, plus a cadre of event volunteers. Pre-registration 
prevents last-minute scrambling — or, worse, a “thin,” 
scraggly image. Focus on designing an event you’d be ex- 
cited to attend. Nail the details. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: It’s easy to get grandiose in your plans, 
but complexity doesn’t scale well. Keep it simple. Or if you do 
want to get complicated, test drive a smaller version first, then 
plan meticulously. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 
Show, don’t tell p. 174 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Balance art and message p. 100 


DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR THEM: A human banner allows you 
to tell an entire story in one stunning image, but you’ll likely 
have to deliver that image yourself. Invite the media along, 
but don’t expect them to bring a helicopter. After the event, 
with aerial photo and press release in hand, you’ll have a 
ready-for-prime-time package. 


58 


TACTIC: Human banner 



Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man on Arctic Sea Ice. Artist John Quigley in coordination with Greenpeace. Photo by Nick 
Cobbing. (Copper and Arctic Sea ice) 


TACTIC: Human banner 


59 




TACTIC: 


Identity correction 


COMMON USES 

To embarrass your target; 
to correct the public record; 
to expose corporate malfea- 
sance; to reframe an issue. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Artists use lies to tell the truth. 
Yes, I created a lie. But because 
you believed it, you found 
something true about yourself.” 

-Alan Moore 

PRACTITIONERS 

Yes Men 
Yippies 
Situationists 
Gonzo journalists 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Destructables, “How to 
Crash a Conference" 

http://trb.la/wjHlm R 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy B ichlbaum 


60 


“By catching 
powerful entities 
off-guard , you 
can momentarily 
expose them to 
public scrutiny.” 


When trying to understand how a machine works, it helps to 
expose its guts. The same can be said of powerful people or 
corporations who enrich themselves at the expense of every- 
one else. By catching power- 
ful entities off-guard — say, by 
speaking on their behalf about 
wonderful things they should 
do (but in reality won’t) — you 
can momentarily expose them 
to public scrutiny. In this way, 
everyone gets to see how they 
work and can figure out how 
better to oppose them. 

This is identity correction: exposing an entity’s inner 
workings to public scrutiny. To practice it, find a target — some 
entity running amok — and think of something true they could 
say but never would — something that’s also lots of fun. What 
you say can either be something your target would say if its PR 
department went absent or berserk (modest proposal) , or things 
they would say if by some miracle they decided to do the right 
thing (honest proposal) . Instead of speaking truth to power, as 
the Quakers suggest, you assume the mask of power to speak a 
little lie that tells a greater truth. 

The modest proposal approach — which the Yes Men and 
others have used on many occasions to impersonate companies 
and parody them — can be a hit-or-miss affair. It usually in- 
volves an absurd and extreme — but logical — extension of the 
entity’s current practices, like when the Billionaires for Bush 
put Social Security up for sale on eBay, or when the Yes Men 
suggested that CEOs in the West would want to remotely moni- 
tor and control workers in factories in Africa via a control panel 
mounted on a huge golden phallus. 

In spite of the emotionally satisfying payoff of antics like 
those, it’s the honest proposal approach — assuming the identity 
of a big evildoer and announcing they’re doing something 
wonderful — that has proven to be the more effective way 
to embarrass a target. When the Yes Men impersonated Dow 
Chemical on the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal catastro- 
phe and announced on Dow’s behalf that it was finally taking 


TACTIC: Identity correction 


responsibility for the disaster see CASE: Dow Chemical apologizes 
for Bhopal, or when U.S. Uncut activists announced that GE 
was paying its 2010 taxes after all see TACTIC: Hoax ; or when 
activists impersonating French officials announced that Haiti’s 
debt — imposed when Haiti won independence from France, 
to compensate French slaveowners for their lost “property” — 
would at long last be forgiven; or when environmental activists 
impersonated Canada (in one case) or the U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce (in another) and announced surprising and won- 
derful things. . . In all these cases, the consequences were im- 
mediate: voluminous news reports about the unlikely turn of 
events (and, in the Dow and GE cases, giant temporary drops 
in each company’s stock value) . These in turn provided fodder 
for a wave of other articles about the whole hoax, providing 
a media platform for the reform programs of campaigners 
working on these issues. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Getting caught by the real folks you are im- 
personating. Not really a pitfall, just a plot twist. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Hoax p. 54 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Infiltration p. 64 
Electoral Guerrilla Theater p. 40 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 

Points of intervention p. 250 

Alienation effect p. 210 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 

Capitalism p. 216 

Society of the spectacle p. 266 

CASE STUDIES 

Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p. 318 
Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
New York Times “Special Edition” web 
Survivaballs take the UN by storm web 


THE REAL ACTION IS YOUR TARGET’S REACTION: Often the most 
revealing moment in a successful identity correction is the 
reaction of the target. When you identity-correct a major 
corporation, you force them to react. They can’t let the lie that 
tells the truth stand in the media. GE had to tell the press it 
was NOT returning its questionable tax refund to stand in soli- 
darity with struggling Americans. Dow Chemical had to issue 
a statement indicating it had NOT apologized for the Bhopal 
disaster and would NOT be compensating the victims. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 16 6 

Reframe p. 168 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Do the media's work for them p.124 

Use others' prejudices against them p. 192 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 


TACTIC: Identity correction 



TACTIC: 


Image theater 


COMMON USES 

To foster dialogue and 
develop action strategies; to 
create a compelling public 
image in a direct action. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Julian Boat 
Brent Blair 
Cheryl Harrison 
Mark Weinburg 
Mark Weinblatt 
Rosa Gonzales 
Melina Bobadilla 
Jiwon Chung 
Practicing Freedom 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Boo/, Augusto. Games for Actors and 
Non-Actors. London: Rout/edge, 1992. 

Boat, Augusto. Theater of the 
Oppressed. New York: Theater 
Communications Group, 1993. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Levana Saxon 


62 


Image theater, a social change tool developed by Augusto 
Boal, is one of the more widely used forms of Theater of 
the Oppressed, in which activists, students or any group are 
invited to form statues that represent a moment in time of an 
oppressive situation. The image can then serve as a spring- 
board for critical group reflection in order to both under- 
stand the situation better and to try out possible “solutions.” 
Through the process of creating and working with the image, 
participants can decode the situation, dissecting each char- 
acter’s personality, motivation and range of possible actions. 
Insofar as the participants identify with the characters, they 
can explore possible actions that they themselves can take 
in their lives. 

Image theater is similar to forum theater in every way, 
except that everyone is holding still. This allows for both faster 
development and use of the process: whereas forum theater 
often involves a small team that develops and rehearses a 
skit for months, image theater can be created on the spot, 
collaboratively. In this way, image theater is an incredibly 
accessible tool to use in trainings, strategy development 
and direct actions. 

For example, at a 2005 rally to support a disruption of a 
Chevron shareholder meeting in San Rafael, California, all 
demonstrators present were invited to form an image to depict 
the entire oil industry, including the characters who benefit 
from it, are oppressed by it, or are bystanders of it. Portrayed 
in the image were drivers, oil tycoons, media, and impacted 
communities (people from Nigeria and Ecuador were pres- 
ent to represent themselves). Even water and the Earth were 
included as characters. Once people were satisfied that the 
image represented reality, they shared their character’s 
thoughts and motivations. The few people left in the rally 
who were not part of the image were then asked to take ten 
seconds each to intervene in the image in an attempt to trans- 
form the oil industry by reshaping the characters whom they 
believed were the critical agents of change. Everyone could 
see plainly what actions could or could not get us to the “ideal 
image.” Within twenty-five minutes, the group had arrived at 
goals, possible tactics and next steps. 


TACTIC: Image theater 


While image theater starts with a frozen image, it quickly 
moves toward interventions by participants, acting in character, 
to collaboratively and spontaneously name their oppression 
and its source, and then explore courses of action. The final 
stage is to reflect on what happened with participants and, if 
appropriate, write up the actions that seem most viable. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Forum theater p. 48 
Invisible theater p. 66 

PRINCIPLES 

Praxis makes perfect p. 162 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 

THEORIES 

Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 


Image theater is an incredibly accessible tool to use in trainings, strategy development and direct actions. Theater 
games like the one pictured above, by theater of the Oppressed in Paris, 1975, can help to warm participants up to 
make full use of the form. Photo by Cedoc-Funarte. 

POTENTIAL PITFALLS: When creating an image that involves 
representing people who are not present, stereotypes of those 
people commonly surface. This can be problematic when par- 
ticipants begin manipulating the image and the actor tries 
to imagine what is going on in that person’s head. With op- 
pressor characters, this makes for an unrealistic laboratory 
in which to experiment with actions. With oppressed charac- 
ters, it can perpetuate the dehumanizing stereotypes that fuel 
their oppression in the first place. This pitfall can be avoided 
by directing the action toward the people in the room, which 
image theater is specifically designed to do. 


TACTIC: Image theater 



Infiltration 


COMMON USES 

To learn from, expose, or 
disrupt the meetings 
of the powerful. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Yes Men 
Tim DeChristopher 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Destructables, “How to 
Crash a Conference" 

http://trb.la/wjHlmR 

Huffington Post, “Karl Rove Gets ‘M ic 
Checked By Occupy Baltimore At 
Otherwise Dull-Sounding Symposium” 

http://trb. la/AsqoqE 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


Cops and other agents of the 
state are always inhitrating our 
get-togethers, both for intelli- 
gence-gathering and in order 
to disrupt our work. Given how 
successful this tactic has proven 
when used against us, it only 
makes sense that we would re- 
spond in kind. 

Why sneak into a meeting 
or conference? Maybe simply to 
see what’s going on, or to play 
a trick of some sort. You might 
not even know in advance what 
the trick will be. In 2004, Mike 
Bonnano and I snuck into the 
Heritage Foundation luncheon 


“It’s not the 
audience in the 
room that you’re 
most concerned 
with , but the 
audience who will 
see your footage, 
read the press 
release, or benefit 
from the secrets 
you’ve liberated.’’ 

for conservative think tanks 

just to get acquainted with that world, and on the spur of the 
moment, seeing Ed Meese sitting next to the podium, I stepped 
up to the unguarded microphone and proceeded to nominate 
him for President. His reaction on camera is priceless. 

Again and again, the Yes Men have successfully imperson- 
ated corporate presenters at conferences and pulled off some 
very revealing stunts see CASE STUDY: The Yes Men Pose as Exxon. 

A completely different approach is to stage a guerrilla 
musical in the middle of the keynote speech of an evil lobbyist. 
That’s what health care activists did at a major insurance in- 
dustry conference in 2009 see CASE STUDY: Public Option Annie. 

Always make sure that one or more of your team is Riming 
your action. Remember: it’s not the audience there in the room 
that you’re most concerned with, but the audience who will see 
your footage, read the press release, or benefit from the secrets 
you’ve liberated from behind closed doors see: PRINCIPLE: Play 
to the audience that isn’t there. 

In many cases, at least for run-of-the-mill conferences, the 
actual sneaking-in is so easy it’s almost an afterthought. Sim- 
ply walk up to the table near the entrance that’s full of name 
badges; choose one, and say it’s yours (and, if asked, say you’ve 


TACTIC: Infiltration 


Related: 


forgotten your business cards). Take the conference materials 
you’ll be graciously offered along with the badge, and proceed 
inside, or, if you like, to your nearest copy shop to make a bunch 
of other badges with other names for your pals. Alternately, 
come to the table after the initial registration rush is over, per- 
haps midday (when only a few tags are left, probably belonging 
to no-shows) , observe a tag, and then run out and print a few 
business cards (a sheet of pre-perforated cards and a copy shop 
will do the trick) . Return and claim your badge. 


TACTICS 

Media-jacking p. 72 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Hoax p. 54 


DO THE MEDIA'S WORK FOR THEM: No matter what you do when 
you’re inside the conference — whether impersonating your 
enemy or singing at them — it’s not likely to be perfect in the 
actual space and moment. A fake speech might go on too long, 
some singing voices may not be loud enough to hear, etc. That’s 
why you’ll want to document it yourself. By the same token, 
you’ll want to set up the action not for maximum impact in the 
moment, but for how you want it to be seen and heard via the 
photos and videos that you take and later supply to the press. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

The real action is in your target’s reaction web 

Make it funny web 


THEORIES 

Acton logic p. 208 

Points of intervention p. 250 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 


CASE STUDIES 

Bidder 70 p. 290 
Public Option Annie p. 346 
Yes Men pose as Exxon web 


TACTIC: Infiltration 


65 


TACTIC: 

Invisible theater 


COMMON USES 

To pose a moral dilemma in 
the midst of everyday life - 
this can be particularly useful 
on a topic that people might 
normally be “too polite” to 
bring up, such as poverty, 
racism or homophobia. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Augusto Boal 
David Diamond 
Improv Everywhere 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “Primetime from ABC 
News: Gay Parents Bashed" 

http://trb. la/zt3L7P 

Burstow, Bonnie. “Invisible theater, 
Ethics, and the Adult Educator.” 
International Journal of 
Lifelong Education 27, no. 3 
(May-June 2008]: 273-88. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Tracey Mitchell 


You’re dining in a restaurant when suddenly a lesbian couple 
and their two children, dining nearby, are accosted by a 
homophobic server. “These children need a father,” she says. 
“You’re making everyone else here uncomfortable.” Other 
customers chime-in in agreement, while still others leap to 
the defense of the family. Some of these people are actors, the 
rest, including you, are unwittingly participating in an invis- 
ible theater performance. 

Invisible theateris theater that 
seeks never to be recognized as 
theater, performed in a pub- 
lic place. The goal is to make 
the intervention as realistic as 
possible so that it provokes 
spontaneous responses. The 
scene must be loud enough to 
be heard and noticed by people, 
but not so loud or conspicuous 
that it appears staged. Bystanders 
can and will engage with the 
scene as if it were real life, 
because for them it is real life. Invisible theater can thus 
achieve things that most other theater cannot, removing 
barriers between performer and spectator and creating very 
accessible conflictual situations in which people can rethink 
their assumptions and engage with sensitive issues they might 
otherwise avoid. 

Invisible theater is one of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the 
Oppressed techniques, and has been used around the world 
in many different settings. In New York City in 2003, actors 
posing as tourists made loud comments about the potential 
terrorist threat posed by two Muslim women in hijab (also 
actors) who were taking photos of the Empire State Building. 
This scene sparked important dialogue about racial profiling 
and the “War on Terror.” In other instances, actors posing as 
customers in restaurants and grocery stores have claimed not 
to be able to afford their bill, sparking a dialogue with the 
cashier and nearby customers (some of them also actors) 
about questions of economic justice. 


Your mvismie 
theater 

performance is 
only as strong 
as the reaction or 
thought process 
it provokes in 
your audience ” 


TACTIC: Invisible theater 


Invisible theater requires a significant amount of prepa- 
ration and rehearsal. The form requires actors to remain in 
character even when the action goes in unexpected and chal- 
lenging directions. In its pure form, invisible theater never 
lets on that it is theater. Unlike other stealth theater forms like 
guerrilla theater, Yes Men-style hoaxes or Improv Everywhere 
pranks, there is never “a reveal.” People who encounter an 
invisible theater performance should experience it as reality 
and forever after think it was real. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Guerrilla musical web 
Guerrilla theater web 
Street theater web 
Forum theater p. 48 
Image theater p. 62 

THEORIES 

Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Invisible theater carries with it significant 
ethical and safety considerations, which should be explored 
carefully before choosing this tactic. Actors should rehearse a 
range of observer reactions, including aggression and abuse, 
and should be prepared to roll with the punches (sometimes 
literally!). Having an escape plan or distress signal, and 
discussing ahead of time if or when to break character, is also 
advisable see PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care. 


CASE STUDIES 

The Big Donor Show p. 294 
Santa Claus army p. 358 
Operation First Casualty web 


THE REAL ACTION IS YOUR TARGET’S REACTION: While part of the 
beauty of invisible theater is its spontaneity, it is also important 
to anticipate and rehearse potential audience responses. It is a 
good idea to test out your scene with people who did not par- 
ticipate in its creation to see what responses it provokes. Your 
invisible theater performance is only as strong as the reaction or 
thought process it provokes in your audience. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Think narratively p. 18 6 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 


1 This scenario was played out on the ABC News Show What Would You Do? which uses a version of invisible theater 
to generate discussion. While the show breaks the usual rules of invisible theater by surreptitiously filming the scene 
and eventually telling those present that the scene is not real, it is nevertheless a good introduction to the power and 
possibility of invisible theater. 


TACTIC: Invisible theater 


67 


D Mass Street Action 


COMMON USES 

To pressure a corporate or 
government target with a 
mass of people in the street 
telling a unified story. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement 
Direct Action Network 
The Other 98% 
Alliance of Community Trainers 
United for Peace and Justice 
SEIU 
ACT-UP 
Lesbian Avengers 
Washington Action Group 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Crespo, Al. Protest In The Land Of 
Plenty: A View of Democracy from the 
Streets of America As We Enter the 21st 
Century. USA: Center Lane Press, 2002. 

Wikipedia entry on Feb 15, 2003: 
Largest anti-war global action 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ 

February_15,_2003_anti-war_protest 

This Is What Democracy Looks Like. 
Directed by Jill F riedberg and Rick 
Rowley. Big Noise Films, 2000. 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0265871/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Sellers 
Andrew Boyd 


Everyone’s felt the irresistible people-power of a large march 
or rally. When a crowd is bred up by great musicians or fiery 
speakers it can rock. There is real strength in numbers. Most 
of us have also been inspired by a great nonviolent direct ac- 
tion. When individuals or small teams decide to creatively 
throw themselves upon the gears of the machine, it can deto- 
nate powerful mind bombs in our psyches. 

But when you bring the two 
together, and thousands of 
folks from all walks of life col- 
laborate in a mass street action, 
that’s when magic and move- 
ments happen. Movements do 
mass actions. And you need a 
highly functioning and ener- 
gized movement in order to 
repeatedly pull off smart mass 
actions in an escalating struggle 
for change. 

In the spring of 2011, a million Egyptians took to the 
streets, occupied Tahrir Square, fought off wave after wave of 
security forces, and after eighteen eventful and often bloody 
days, forced President Hosni Mubarak from office. In 1999, 
70,000 took to the streets of Seattle and nonviolently shut 
down the WTO Ministerial meeting, the world’s largest busi- 
ness meeting. In 2010, 3,000 trade unionists and their allies 
formed a “Citizens’ Posse” and encircled a downtown D.C. 
hotel full of insurance industry lobbyists for a day in a show of 
force during the closing weeks of America’s epic health care 
reform fight. 

In spite of the differences here in scale, duration, political 
importance, targets and tactics, all three of these mass street 
actions succeeded in their goals because they all shared a few 
key ingredients: 


“A mass street 
action is simply 
too big to direct by 
shouting through 
a megaphone; you 
can’t tango with 
a battleship.” 


• they disrupted business as usual; 

• they had a clear motive and story; 

• they used disciplined nonviolence and focused militancy; 

• and they offered an easy way for individuals to participate. 


TACTIC: Mass Street Action 


Related: 



TACTICS 

Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Carnival protest web 
Blockade p. 14 
Occupation p. 78 
Sit-in web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Citizens’ Posse p. 300 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 
The salt march p. 354 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Critical Mass web 
Koch Guerrilla Drive-In web 


Top: Photo by Rezik Teebi. 

Bottom: A good mass street action can lead to euphoric celebrations as people power triumphs-this can be seen on 
the face of the young girl above. 


A mass street action can’t really be choreographed; it’s too big 
to direct by shouting through a megaphone — instead, it needs 
to be largely self-organizing. To work, though, it needs a shared 
framework, mode of action or rough script to both facilitate 
self-organizing and maintain the coherence of the overall 
action see PRINCIPLE: Simple rules can lead to grand results. 

Tahrir didn’t need a script. It needed a call to congregate 
in public spaces. 


TACTIC: Mass Street Action 



The movement that shut down the WTO was built around 
a loose coalition, held together by a horizontally democratic 
spokescouncil. It agreed on a broad messaging frame and laid 
down some tactical ground rules (e.g. an agreement on non- 
violence, specific responsibilities for each cluster of affinity 
groups, etc.). It was not choreographed, it was chaotic; decen- 
tralized but connected. 

The Citizens’ Posse action was tightly scripted. Coalition 
partners designed and agreed on the action frame up front. 
It needed a tighter script because the action relied more on 
theater and story than on an actual shutdown of the target. 
Even though it was primarily a communicative action, it felt 
like a concrete one because the theater itself was militant, 
and participants were given a powerful role to play in it see 
PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete and communicative. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: At their best, mass street actions make for 
beautiful organized chaos. But provocateurs (theirs or ours) 
can easily tip the fragile balance toward a nightmarish battle 
between cops and protesters. Unless this is your agreed- 
upon goal, you have to have strong agreements, principles, 
and preparation to ensure the safety of those who have picked 
up your call to action. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Escalate strategically p. 134 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Simple rules can have grand results p. 17 6 
Don’t dress like a protester p. 126 
When the people are with you, act! web 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: Actions speak louder than words. The best 
mass street actions put a problem on the map by mobilizing 
thousands of people from all walks of life to congregate and 
confront a shared injustice. Hopefully you can gather right at 
the scene of the crime or an iconic location of symbolic power 
and literally show your adversaries (and yourselves) that the 
people united will never be defeated. 


TACTIC: Mass Street Action 



Police resorted to pepper spray and other harsh tactics after 70,000 protesters swarmed Seattle in late 1999, success- 
fully shutting down the WTO Ministerial Conference with a combination of human blockades and mass street protests. 


TACTIC: Mass Street Action 


71 






TACTIC : 


@ Media-jacking 


COMMON USES 

To undermine your opposition’s 
narrative by hijacking their 
event; to draw attention to 
your side of the story; to 
capitalize on your target’s 
media presence; to reframe 
an issue; to be a jackass. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
Abbie Hoffman 
The Yes Men 
United for a Fair Economy 
Rainforest Action Network 
Operation SalAMI 
Ashton Kutcher 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Jason Salzman, Making the News: 
A Guide For Activists And Non- 
profits : Revised And Updated 
[USA: Basic Books, 2003] 

National Media Conference 
for Progressives 

http://www.truespinconference.com 

Art of the Prank, “ Greenpeace Hijacks 
Kleenex PR Stunt in Times Square’’ 

http://trb.la/wnlcQb 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Patrick Reinsborough 
Doyle Canning 
Joshua Kahn Russell 


U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos capture global attention with a Black Power salute on the medal stand at 
the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. This famous image subverted the spectacle of the medal ceremony to make a power- 
ful statement rejecting racism and oppression. 


TACTIC: Media-jacking 


Media-jacking is when you subvert your opponent’s spectacle for 
your own purposes. Politicians, corporations and lobbyists 
have much bigger PR budgets and name-brand draw to 
attract press to their staged media events. Through well- 
planned creative interventions, however, you can refocus 
things and highlight a different side the story. 

There are a few different 
ways to design a successful me- 
dia-jacking. The first is simply 
commandeering the media. 

One of the most literal (and 
bold) examples of this occurred 
in 1991 during the first Gulf 
War, when the anti-AIDS orga- 
nization ACT UP burst into a 
CBS TV studio during a live primetime news broadcast and 
took over the set, chanting “Fight AIDS, not Arabs.” 

Another option is to use your opposition’s platform to tell 
your own story. In 2007, Kleenex ran an expensive PR stunt 
where they interviewed people on the street for a commercial 
they were making, getting participants to cry and say, “I need 
a Kleenex.” Greenpeace activists stealthily lined up to be in- 
terviewed, crying instead because Kleenex was clear-cutting 
old growth forests to make their tissues. They successfully 
shut down the shoot for the rest of the day, and a video of the 
action went viral. 

Sophisticated media-jacking uses your target’s own story 
against them, undermining them at the point of assumption 
see THEORY: Points of intervention. For example, when activ- 
ists from United for a Fair Economy hijacked the Republican 
stunt on Tax Day 1998 see CASE: Whose Tea Party?, they turned 
the message “taxes = oppression” on its head, to show instead 
that tax breaks for the rich are destroying working families 
see PRINCIPLE: Reframe. 

Similarly, in 2006, activists with the Rainforest Action Net- 
work made fake press passes, put on suits and snuck into the 
Los Angeles Auto Show. Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General 
Motors, was giving a keynote address about how “environ- 
mentally friendly” GM’s cars are. The speech was bullshit, but 
rather than saying it was bullshit, RAN activists stepped on to 
the stage and up to the mic, pretending to be the emcees 
see PRINCIPLE: Use the Jedi mind trick. They congratulated 
Wagoner, then told the audience that they were pleased 


sopnisucaiea 
media-jacking uses 
your target’s own 
story against 
them.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Creative disruption p. 18 
Infiltration p. 64 
Hoax p. 54 

Identity correction p. 60 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Whose Tea Party? p. 392 

Public Option Annie p. 346 

Battle in Seattle p. 2 86 

Dow Chemical aplogizes for Bhopal p. 318 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 

Colbert roasts Bush p. 308 


TACTIC: Media-jacking 


to announce that GM was prepared to commit in writ- 
ing to the promises he’d just made, and unfurled an 
oversized “pledge” that they asked him to sign. He 
had two options: 1) sign it, and give the campaigners 
something in writing to hold him to, or 2) refuse, demonstrating 
his dishonesty see PRINCIPLE: Put your target in a decision 
dilemma. He chose the second option, and the media 
went nuts. Over 700 media outlets ran stories about GM’s 
greenwashing exposed. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Media is an extremely uneven terrain of 
struggle. Accurate and sympathetic media coverage is often 
based on having good relationships with journalists, so be careful 
your action doesn’t alienate the very media professionals you 
need to be covering the story. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
The real action is your target's reaction web 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Consider your audience p. 11 8 
Seek common ground p. 170 
Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 166 
Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 16 0 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Name the elephant in the room web 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: Media-jacking offers activists the unique 
opportunity to not just engage opponents on their playing 
held, but to actually call the shots and reframe the discussion. 
By putting their targets on the spot in front of the media, they 
can reshape how the public perceives the “good guys” and “bad 
guys” and flip their opponents’ story on its head. 


74 


TACTIC: Media-jacking 



— Vaclav Havel 



Nonviolent search and seizure 


COMMON USES 

Does the government or a 
polluting corporation have 
hidden documents or secret 
plans? Liberate them! 

PRACTITIONERS 

Casino-Free Philadelphia 
Operation SalAMI 
Canadian Union of Postal Workers 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Guide New Tactics in Human Rights: 
“Tactical Transferability: The 
Nonviolent Raid as Case Study " 

http://trb.la/wnJnkL 

Canadian Union of Postal Workers, 
‘Operation Transparency: Their Secret 
Documents, Our Right to Know" 

http://trb.la/A8Csk2 

Casino-Free Philadelphia, 
“Operation Transparency" 

http://trb. la/xr3stB 

Video: “Operation Transparency 
Direct Action at Pennsylvania 
Gaming Control Board" 

http://trb.la/yilu3m 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Daniel Hunter 


The tactic of nonviolent search and seizure rests on the idea 
that any information that impacts the public but is being 
hidden from them should be liberated. It’s a direct action 
tactic that involves taking matters 
into our own hands by show- 
ing up with a “citizens’ search 
warrant” and attempting, 
nonviolently, to liberate the 
documents in question. Even 
though the tactic is unlikely 
to succeed directly, the ensu- 
ing controversy (and possible 
arrests) can nonetheless bring 
the secret documents to the 
public’s attention. In several 
high-profile cases, the success- 
ful application of the tactic has 
created enough outcry that 
the target has been forced to 
make the documents public. 

The tactic originated in 
2001, when Philippe Duhamel, 
a trainer and organizer based 
in Montreal, Canada, thought 
back to Gandhi’s strategy of 
nonviolent raids on colonial salt 
deposits. Duhamel was work- 
ing with Operation SalAMI’s 
campaign to expose the secretive Free Trade Area of Ameri- 
cas (FTAA) trade agreement being negotiated. Even senators 
and members of parliament could not see the negotiating texts 
— only key CEOs and the leaders of participating nations. 
Decrying the anti-democratic nature of the negotiations, Du- 
hamel decided to reinvent Gandhi’s open, transparent raids. 

Weeks ahead of the Quebec City summit, Operation 
SalAMI announced it would attempt to “liberate” the texts 
for public scrutiny. On the day of the action, wave after wave 
of participants approached the police barricades erected (for 
their benefit) around the Department of Foreign Affairs and 


“This action places 
the opponent 
in a quandary: 
if they release 
the documents , 
your direct action 
brings meaningful 
information to light 
and scores political 
points. If they 
don’t, it raises the 
public’s interest, and 
ultimately suspicion, 
over what is being 
hidden from them.’’ 


TACTIC: Nonviolent search and seizure 


International Trade. Each wave read aloud a citizens’ search 

warrant: “Hello, my name is . Access to information is 

basic to democracy. Without that information we cannot have 
a meaningful public debate. We ask the police to do their job 
and help us search for the texts. Please let me through.” 

The first wave went over and was promptly arrested. Over 
several hours, eighty people — some dressed as Robin Hood 
— climbed over the fence and attempted to liberate the docu- 
ments. Their action was their message see THEORY: Action logic. 

As the public saw the lengths the government and corpo- 
rations were going to hide the texts, public outrage mounted 
until eventually the Canadian government broke down and 
released the texts. Exposed to public scrutiny as the corpo- 
rate coup d’etat it was, the FTAA never moved forward. 

Nonviolent search and seizure has since been used success- 
fully by other groups and campaigns, including the Canadian 
Union of Postal Workers and Casino-Free Philadelphia, which 
won the release of 95% of the documents they had sought to 
liberate with only fourteen arrests, showing the tactic can be 
effective on a small scale. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Mass street action p. 68 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
The commons p. 220 


PUT YOUR TARGET IN A DECISION DILEMMA: This action places 
the opponent in a quandary: if they release the documents, 
your direct action brings meaningful information to light and 
scores political points. If they don’t, it raises the public’s inter- 
est, and ultimately suspicion, over what is being hidden from 
them. Heads you win, tails they lose. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Get arrested in an intelligent way web 
Create a theatrical motivation that 
keeps the action going web 
Be an ethical prankster web 


TACTIC: Nonviolent search and seizure 


77 


y Occupation 


COMMON USES 

To hold public space; to 
pressure a target; to reclaim 
or squat property; to defend 
against “development”; to 
assert Indigenous sovereignty. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Lost o job, found an occupation" 
- Occupy Wall Street 

PRACTITIONERS 

Take Back The Land 
Landless Workers Movement [MST] 
La Via Campesina 
Occupy Wall Street 
Los Indignados 
April 6 Youth Movement 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Twin Cities Indymedia, “Ten Year 
Anniversary of Minnehaha Free State" 

http://trb.la/xirh70 

Occupy USA Today, “7 Occupations 
that changed U.S. History" 

http://trb.la/ArEnhs 

Take Back The Land 

www.takebacktheland.org 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 
Arun Gupta 


The first recorded labor strike was a form of occupation: over 
3,000 years ago, ancient Egyptian tomb builders from the des- 
ert village of Deir el-Medina repeatedly occupied temples fol- 
lowing the failure of Pharaoh Ramses III to provide adequate 
provisions. We see other examples of public occupations that 
have propelled history forward ever since. 



Flint Michigan Strike from smartMeme Strategy & Training Project. 

In seventeenth-century England, for instance, the Dig- 
gers formed a utopian agrarian community on common land. 
Workers, soldiers and citizens established the Paris Commune 
in 1871. In the United States, in the Great Upheaval of 1877, 
striking railway workers and their supporters occupied train 
yards across the land. A wave of plant occupations in the mid- 
1980s led to the justly famous Flint sit-down strikes of 1936, 
which won union recognition for hundreds of thousands of 
auto workers. 

Occupations are a popular tactic employed by social move- 
ments to hold and defend space. Other direct action tactics 
may also be deployed to support the occupation see TACTICS: 
Sit in, Blockade, Banner drop; or in some circumstances full- 


TACTIC: Occupation 


blown occupations have been known to grow out of a smaller 
tactic, such as a sit-in. 

While the term can refer to an oppressor who has invaded 
or annexed land from a population (“occupied North America/ 
Turtle Island” or “occupied Palestine”), the tactic of occupation 
is often used by those same groups to assert their right to that 
land: for example, the occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 by 
Indians of All Tribes, or when the Mendota Mdewakanton Da- 
kota community, American Indian Movement, and Earth First! 
held a sixteen-month occupation to defend Minnehaha State 
Park from highway construction slated to desecrate sacred land. 

The action logic see PRINCIPLE of many of these occupa- 
tions is that people are reclaiming space that they are 
entitled to, thereby highlighting a greater theft. This same 
action logic can be applied to students taking over a build- 
ing that should be serving them (for instance, in the late 
1960s when African-American students occupied university 
buildings across the U.S., leading to the creation of many 
African American/Ethnic Studies departments), or environ- 
mentalists defending land that should be held in common, or 
workers occupying the factory in which they labor. 



The “indignados" encampments inspired occupy movements worldwide. Puerto del Sol, Madrid. May 18, 2011. 
(Reuters/ Paul Hanna) 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Eviction blockade p. 44 
Blockade p. 14 
Sit-in web 
Encampment web 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose tactics that support 

your strategy p. 112 

Put your target in a decision 

dilemma p. 1 66 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 19 6 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 

Be both concrete and communicative web 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

When the people are with you, act! web 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 


While occupations can range in style and form, they gen- 
erally have two key components: 1) a focus on the logistics of 
maintaining an encampment, semi-permanent rally, or sit-in, 
which requires meeting needs around food, shelter, defense 


TACTIC: Occupation 




from police raids, etc., and which can often be a profoundly 
politicizing experience in its own right, and 2) a public pres- 
sure campaign that seeks to put the target in a decision 
dilemma see PRINCIPLE. 

The location chosen for an occupation site often deter- 
mines its success. A number of considerations may factor into 
the decision, such as symbolic significance, ability to concretely 
disrupt a target see PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative, a logistical ability to maintain the occu- 



Occupation of Wall Street 2011. 

pation, as well as public visibility and technicalities of legal 
ownership. Historically, occupations have lent themselves to 
spontaneity, but the enduring ones tend to be well-planned. 

Groups like the Landless Workers Movement (MST) 
and La Via Campesina support communities of peasants in 
occupying fallow private land and reclaiming it for common 
use or basic subsistence. In the United States, groups like 
Take Back the Land apply this same principle to foreclosures, 
defending housing as a human right see TACTIC: Eviction blockade. 
In the environmental movement, tree-sits are a common 
example of occupations being used to defend forests from 
logging. Squatters movements across Europe have “taken 
back” abandoned buildings and repurposed them as homes 
and social centers with the intention of flying under the radar 
of authorities until they can lay legal claim to the space. 

Occupations inherendy threaten the legitimacy of a target by 
demonstrating the power-holder’s inability to enforce the status 
quo. They also serve to expose the arbitrary, and often unjust, 
nature of private property regimes see THEORY: The commons. 


80 


TACTIC: Occupation 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Occupations are difficult to sustain in- 
definitely. Have a plan — including an exit plan. 


POINTS OF INTERVENTION: Different points of intervention will 
yield different sorts of occupations. An occupation of a fac- 
tory is an intervention at the point of production that seeks 
to physically interrupt (or restart ') economic activity. Other 
occupations, say of the Wisconsin State Capitol (see CASE), 
occur at the point of decision. Occupy Wall Street (see 
CASE) began as an intervention at the point of assumption: 
occupying Zuccotti Park didn’t physically inconvenience 
anyone on Wall Street — at first. Until the tents went up, it 
was just a park near some banks. Then it became a rallying 
point, a place from which to undermine the assumptions 
of unaccountable economic power and begin organizing 
against specific targets (banks, the stock exchange, court- 
houses, etc.) at other points of intervention. 


KEY THEORY 

at work 

OTHER RELATED THEORIES: 

Action logic p. 208 

Points of intervention p. 250 

The commons p. 220 

Pillars of support p. 248 

Hamoq & hamas p. 236 

Temporary Autonomous Zone ( TAZ ] p. 270 

Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 


1 During the 1999-2002 economic crisis, Argentinian workers occupied their shuttered workplaces in 
an effort to recover unpaid wages, keep their jobs, and ultimately run the factories for themselves. 
See The Take, directed by Avi Lewis (2004). 


TACTIC: Occupation 


81 


Prefigurative Intervention 


COMMON USES 

To give a glimpse of the Utopia 
we’re working for; to show 
how the world could be; to 
make such a world feel not 
just possible, but irresistible. 

EPIGRAPH 

“You never change things by 
fighting the existing reality. 
To change something, build 
a new model that makes the 
existing model obsolete.” 

-Buckminster Fuller 

PRACTITIONERS 

Steve Lambert 
The Yes Men 
The Provos 
The (new) Diggers 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Provo Images, “White Plans" 

http://provo-images.info/WhitePlans.html 

Burning Man, “Ten Principles" 

http://trb. la/weruXo 

L. M. Bogad, “Radical Simulacrum, 
Regulation By Prank: The Oil Enforcement 
Agency," in Contemporary theater 
Review, Vol. 17(2), 2007, p261. 

http://trb. la/wgzZKU 

Artists Against Cuts, “A User’s Guide 
to Demanding the Impossible" 

http://trb.la/yExE89 

PARK(ing) Day 

http://parkingday.org/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


Many of us spend so much time trying to stop bad things 
from happening that we rarely take the time to sketch out 
how things could be better, let alone actually go out and cre- 
ate a little slice of the future we want to live in. Prefigurative 
interventions seek to address that imbalance. 

The lunch counter sit-ins 
of the U.S. civil rights move- 
ment are frequently referenced 
as defiant, courageous and 
ultimately successful acts of re- 
sistance against America’s Jim 
Crow-era apartheid. They were 
certainly that, but they were 
also profoundly prefigurative. 

The students’ actions — mixed-race groups of people violating 
the law by sitting at lunch counters and demanding to be served 
— foreshadowed victory and prefigured the world they wanted 
to live in: they were enacting the integration they wanted. 

Pranks, art interventions, tactical media, alternative fes- 
tivals and temporary communities, even electoral guerrilla 
theater, can also be effective ways to prefigure the world we 
want to live in. 

Prefigurative interventions are direct actions sited at 
the point of assumption — where beliefs are made and unmade, 
and the limits of the possible can be stretched see THEORY: 
Points of intervention. The goal of a prefigurative intervention is 
twofold: to offer a compelling glimpse of a possible, and better, 
future, and also — slyly or baldly — to point up the poverty of 
imagination of the world we actually do live in. 

Like the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt and the 
encampments in public squares across Spain by the Indignados 
movement, the Occupy encampments across the world are 
crucibles of prefigurative intervention, providing a space for 
people to create in microcosm the communitarian and dem- 
ocratic world they want to bring into being. Likewise, the 
Burning Man art festival works as a temporary autonomous 
zone where people can live out values, test out ideas and ex- 
periment with the future in real time see THEORY: Temporary 
Autonomous Zones. 


“We can’t create a 
world we haven’t 
yet imagined. 
Better if we’ve 
already tasted it” 


TACTIC: Prefigurative Intervention 


Related: 



PARK(ing) Day. An annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into 
temporary public parks. 

Monthly Critical Mass bike rides prefigure future cities in 
which bicycles actually hold their own as traffic. Or PARK(ing) 
Day, in which people in cities across the country put a day’s 
worth of coins into a parking meter and transform their 
parking space into a mini-park or jazz lounge or tiny public 
swimming pool, prefigure a greening of urban space and a 
reclaimed commons. 

The Oil Enforcement Agency was a 2006 theatrical action 
campaign in which environmental activists — complete with 
SWAT-team-like caps and badges, posed as agents of a govern- 
ment agency — one that didn’t exist, but should have. Agents 
ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto 
shows and generally modelled a future in which government 
took climate change seriously. 

If hope truly is a muscle that we build by exercising, then 
interventions that prefigure the world we want to live in — 
whether by prophetic acts of civil disobedience, the formation 
of alternative communities or the staging of prankish provoca- 
tions — are one of the best ways to work that muscle. 


TACTICS 

Electoral guerrilla theater p. 40 
Occupation p. 78 
Direct action p. 32 
Guerrilla theater web 
Art intervention web 
Encampment web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
The commons p. 220 

CASE STUDIES 

The salt march p. 354 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
Small Gifts p. 360 

New York Times “Special Edition” web 

Critical Mass web 

Burning Man web 

The Oil Enforcement Agency web 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: When playing with utopian visions, it’s 
easy to get all squishy-Kumbaya or run off into esoteric fantasy- 
land. The idea is not to paint a pretty picture full of rainbows 
and unicorns, but to put forward a fragment of something 


83 


TACTIC: Prefigurative Intervention 




Banksy says: every day is parking ) day. 

visionary, desirable, and just beyond the realm of the possible 
— and in such a way that your action calls out the vested in- 
terests making it impossible. In sum, it has got to make sense. 
Don’t go proposing replacing a cash-and-credit economy with 
a hug-and-kiss economy and think that’ll demonstrate how 
the CEOs are keeping us all from being happy. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 
Show, don’t tell p. 174 
Reframe p. 168 
Team up with experts p. 184 
Be the change you want to see web 
Hope is a muscle web 
All power to the imagination web 
The price of a successful attack is 
a constructive alternative web 
Have an inside/outside strategy web 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: You can go on about Utopia, about the bet- 
ter world you dream of, about how things could be different, til 
you’re blue in the face, and it might not sink in. You might not 
even believe it. But creating a lived experience of the change 
you seek — whether it’s a prophetic headline that for fifteen 
seconds you believe to be true see CASE: New York Times “Special 
Edition”, or an unlocked white bicycle leaning against a build- 
ing that is free for anyone to use — is the best way to break 
through cynicism, stimulate our political imaginations and af- 
firm that, “Yes, another world is possible.” After all, we can’t 
create a world we haven’t yet imagined. Better if we’ve already 
tasted it. 


84 


TACTIC: Prefigurative Intervention 



These bicycle enthusiasts show us what our world could look like if more people challenged the dominant reality of car 
culture. Internationally dispersed, uncoordinated actions such as this operate under the name Critical Mass. 


TACTIC: Prefigurative Intervention 


85 



w Public filibuster 


COMMON USES 

Interrupting or shutting down 
a hearing or government vote. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Casino-Free Philadelphia 
Delaware Riverkeeper Network 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Casino-Free Philadelphia, “Flow 
to Do a Public Filibuster" 

http://trb.la/y1COgt 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Daniel blunter 


Many people know about the U.S. Senate’s procedural filibus- 
ters, in which a dissenting senator holds the floor to keep a 
vote from happening. The people’s version, the public filibuster, 
is no different. When activists face hostile government agen- 
cies or hearings that exclude the public, this relatively low-risk 
tactic injects the public’s voice into an otherwise closed-off 
process. Confrontational but constructive, it has been adapt- 
ed by a range of citizen groups. 

In 2007, for example, a dozen members of Casino-Free 
Philadelphia decided to use the public filibuster at a Pennsyl- 
vania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting. For two years, 
the PGCB had refused to let members of the public testify at 
so-called public hearings, but this time the public was going 
to have its say. One at a time, members stood up and began 
testifying. Each one was told to be quiet by the chairwoman. 
A recess was quickly called, and the members who had spo- 
ken were escorted out of the building by police and told they 
would not be allowed to return. 

When the board reconvened, the chairwoman warned the 
remaining members of the group not to interrupt. Naturally, 
one after another of the mem- 
bers immediately stood up and 
continued the filibuster. They 
spoke over the banging gavel 
of the distressed chairwoman 
and over the “official” testifiers 
as they coolly tried to continue. 

Another recess was called, and 
then another, as the public fili- 
buster continued. Finally, the 
PGCB shut down the entire 
meeting. The result: rather 
than risk another such engagement, the PGCB changed its 
policy to allow the public to speak at hearings. 

To an unsympathetic eye, disrupting a meeting can come 
across as mob rule, especially when poorly done see TACTIC: 
Creative disruption. The power of the public filibuster depends 
on carrying out the action in a dignified manner, as well as 
framing the tactic properly. Calling the action a “public fili- 


“The power of the 
public filibuster 
depends on carrying 
out the action in a 
dignified manner, 
as well as framing 
the tactic properly.” 


TACTIC: Public filibuster 


buster” helps lend the kind of legitimacy recognized by re- 
porters and the broader public. 

When planning a public filibuster, be sure to stay positive 
and respectful. Your tone matters a great deal, and your bear- 
ing and presentation should be above reproach. Be honest, 
expressive, polite and on-message. Focus on the issue at hand, 
not the person trying to run the meeting. Also, show some 
compassion for the chairperson, who is used to being in con- 
trol. This action threatens their power and puts them in an 
awkward and uncomfortable position. Be gentle with them. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Infiltration p. 64 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Eviction blockade p. 44 
Sit-in web 
Direct action p. 32 


MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Our opponents use bureaucratic 
delays and restrictions on public hearings to keep their deal- 
ings in the shadows. Such delays and restrictions are boring 
procedural issues that happen quietly and can easily go unno- 
ticed. The public filibuster puts a spotlight on these practices 
by creating conflict and drama where there was none before, 
hushing into the open the undemocratic nature of the current 
process. Then everyone can see the problem for themselves 
and make up their own mind. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

If protest is made illegal, make 

daily life a protest p. 138 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

Don’t dress like a protester p. 126 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 


THEORIES 

Acton logic p. 208 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Points of intervention p. 250 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Bidder 70 p. 290 


TACTIC: Public filibuster 


87 


TACTIC: 

W Strategic nonviolence 


COMMON USES 

To create a framework for 
broad-based direct action 
conducive to building large, 
inclusive, diverse and 
effective movements. 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Alliance of Community Trainers, 
“An Open Letter to the Occupy 
Movement: Why We Need Agreements" 

http://trainersalliance.org/?p=221 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Starhawk & the Association 
of Community Trainers 


For over a decade, questions of violence, property destruc- 
tion and confrontational tactics generally have tended to 
be debated under the frame diversity of tactics, but the time 
has come to seek a new frame. Diversity of tactics becomes 
an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and 
accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard 
work of debating positions and coming to agreements about 
how we want to act together. It becomes a code for “anything 
goes,” and makes it impossible for our movements to hold 
anyone accountable for their actions. 

A framework that might better serve our purposes 
is one of strategic nonviolent direct action. Within a stra- 
tegic nonviolence framework, 
groups make clear agree- 
ments about which tactics to 
use for a given action. This 
frame is strategic — it makes 
no moral judgments about 
whether or not violence is ever 
appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a 
lifetime of Gandhian pacifism, but it says, “This is how we 
agree to act together at this time.” It is active, not passive. It 
seeks to create a dilemma for the opposition see PRINCIPLE: 
Put your target in a decision dilemma, and to dramatize the 
difference between our values and theirs. 

Strategic nonviolent direct action has powerful advantages: 


“Diversity of 
tactics becomes 
code for 
‘anything goes 


We make agreements about what types of action we will take, and 
hold one another accountable for keeping them. Making agree- 
ments is empowering. If I know what to expect in an action, 
I can make a choice about whether or not to participate. We 
don’t place unwilling people in the position of being held 
responsible for acts they did not commit and do not support. 


In the process of coming to agreements, we listen to each other’s 
differing viewpoints. We don’t avoid disagreements within 
our group, but learn to debate freely, passionately and 
respectfully. 


88 


TACTIC: Strategic nonviolence 


We organize openly, without fear, because we stand behind our 
actions. We may break laws in service to the higher laws 
of conscience. We don’t seek punishment, nor admit the 
right of the system to punish us, but we face the potential 
consequences for our actions with courage and pride. 

Because we organize openly, we can invite new people into 
our movements and they can continue to grow. As soon as we 
institute a security culture in the midst of a mass movement, 
the movement begins to close in upon itself and to shrink. 

Though a framework of nonviolent direct action does not make 
us “safe,” it does let us make clear decisions about what kinds 
of actions we put ourselves at risk for. That said, we can’t 
control what the police do and they need no direct provo- 
cation to attack us see PRINCIPLE: Take risks but take care. 

A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action makes it easy 
to reject provocation. We know what we’ve agreed to — and 
anyone urging other courses of action can be reminded of 
those agreements or rejected. 

There’s plenty of room in this struggle for a diversity of move- 
ments and a diversity of organizing and actions. Some may 
choose strict Gandhian nonviolence, others may choose em- 
phatic resistance. But for movements that embrace it, strategic 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Mass street action p. 68 
Occupation p. 78 
Direct action p. 32 
Prefigurative intervention p .82 
Carnival protest web 

THEORIES 

Hamo q & hamas p. 236 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Action logic p. 208 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Cycles of social movements web 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 


nonviolent direct action is a framework that will allow broad- 
based movements to grow in diversity and power. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


ESCALATE STRATEGICALLY: Activists tend to become increasingly 
radicalized through greater exposure to repression and in- 
justice. Young activists, especially, will increasingly seek more 
“hardcore” ways to challenge the structures they oppose. These 
tendencies are valuable and should be honored and supported, 
but not all “hardcore” actions are equally effective. By charting 
a course of strategic escalation, we make space for the more 
radical among us to grow, without leaving behind the more 
cautious in our midst. 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 1 66 
The real action is your target's reaction web 
One no, many yesses web 


TACTIC: Strategic nonviolence 



COMMON USES 

To link disparate locations that 
seek to have impact on a 
common issue; to model 
alternative community; to 
demonstrate commitment to a 
cause through endurance; to 
physically embody a pathway 
to an alternative. 

EPIGRAPH 

“The path is made by walking.” 

-Antonio Machado 

PRACTITIONERS 

Zapatistas 
Greenpeace 
Sojourner Truth 
Peace Pilgrim 

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, New York 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

On-to-Ottawa Trek 

http://www.ontoottawa.ca/trek/trek.html 

New York Times, “Soviet-American 
Group Plans Voyage for Peace" 

http://trb.la/Ad9ANo 

Trail of Dreams 

h ttp://tra H2010.org/ 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


90 


We learn to walk at a very early age, and almost simultaneously, 
we learn the power of being able to move ourselves toward places 
we want to go (that pile of toys) or away from places we want to 
leave (that plate of smashed peas) . Each step of our path embodies 
the message. 

People’s resistance stories are full of walks, treks, sea voyages 
and even flights. Over the millennia of human existence, 
entire communities have packed up and voted with their feet, 
moving away from untenable situations to more fertile lands. 
In the last century, extended marches have been used broadly 
and strategically as a platform for outreach and mobilization, 
and as a visible expression of issues. 

India’s Salt March of 1932 is likely the best-known example 
of a mass, many-day trek see CASE: The salt march. Gandhi con- 
ceived of this march as a living lesson for India, creating a 
community, literally one step at a time, that both supported 
and embodied an independent India. 

Many other treks have followed suit, usually with a com- 
mitment to demonstrate an ideal or alternative way of living. 
The 1986 Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament 
flourished during its cross-continental trek, arriving in 
Washington, D.C., with 1,500 marchers and thousands more 
supporters. In the course of the 3,700 logged miles, the march- 
ers not only educated and agitated for action on nuclear 
disarmament, but also built a participatory mobile city. 

Not all treks model alternative social or living structures; 
some focus on specific strategic functions of the tactic itself. 
In 2010, four immigrant students embarked on a 1,500-mile 
march to Washington, D.C., to support immediate passage of 
the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Mi- 
nors) Act and a moratorium on deportations of eligible students. 
The Trail of Dreams see CASE: The Trail of Dreams embodied the 
impossible hurdles placed on the path to success of immigrants 
in the USA. 

Many forms of transportation, from bicycles to trains and 
even sailboats, have been used in treks. In the 1935 On-to- 
Ottawa trek, hundreds of unemployed Canadian workers 
boarded boxcars in Vancouver to take their grievances to the 
national capital. Their basic demands proved so threatening 


TACTIC: Trek 


to the government that they were physically stopped from 
reaching Ottawa, but the unrest that fueled their trek soon 
brought down the conservative government. In 1989, a citi- 
zen diplomatic venture, the Soviet American Sail, navigated 
a 156' schooner from NYC to Leningrad to bring home the 
counter-Cold War and environmental message, “We’re all 
in the same boat.” The trek tactic can prove a potent tool in 
focusing attention on an issue. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

Artistic vigil p. 10 

Creative petition delivery p. 22 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 

CASE STUDIES 

The salt march p. 354 
Trail of Dreams p. 384 


Schooner Te Vega's crew prepares for departure to Leningrad on the Soviet American Sail. Success comes from pulling together. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: All of these mobile protests require im- 
mense amounts of logistical support before, during, and after 
the action itself. Sometimes this burden can prove too heavy and 
the logistics can overwhelm the organizers, leaving the strategy 
unrealized. When things go badly, the physical requirements of 
the trek or ride can exhaust members and burn out the broader 
support network. Make sure to allow adequate preparation time 
and gather appropriate resources to ensure success. 


MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: The routes of treks are often stra- 
tegically chosen to make the invisible visible, bringing issues 
that are currently under the radar into the public dialogue. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Pace yourself p. 158 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 


TACTIC: Trek 


91 



TACTIC: 


Write your own TACTIC 


COMMON USES 


Hoio does it work ? 


EPIGRAPH 


PRACTITIONERS 


FURTHER INSIGHT 


CONTRIBUTED BY 


92 


TACTIC: Write your own TACTIC 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: 


Related: 

TACTICS 


THEORIES 


CASES 


The modular format of Beautiful Trouble allows the collection 
to expand endlessly to reflect new tactical breakthroughs, 
underrepresented areas of struggle and overlooked pearls 
of wisdom. 

Become part of Beautiful Trouble. Use this template to 
write up your own creative-activism insights. Submit your own 
module for publication on the Beautiful Trouble website here: 
http://beautifultrouble.org. 


TACTIC: Write your own TACTIC 


93 




DESIGN GUIDELINES 


Hard-won insights that can inform 
creative action design. 


“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention , 
through the restless , impatient , continuing , , hopeful inquiry human 
beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” 

— Paulo Freire 


After decades of making foolish mistakes, veteran creative 
activists tend to acquire a set of mental short-cuts. 
Whether they’re conscious of them or not, they bring 
these operating principles to bear on each new action 
or campaign they cook up. After a string of late- 
night truth serum injections and fugue-state urban 
vagabonding, we managed to pry a bunch of them 
loose. Enjoy. 



nger works best when you have 
the moral high ground 


IN SUM 

Anger is potent. Use it 
wisely. If you have the 
moral higher ground, it is 
compelling and people 
will join you. If you don’t, you’ll 
look like a cranky wing-nut. 

EPIGRAPH 

“The truth will set you free, 
but first it will piss you off.” 

-Gloria Steinem 

PRACTITIONERS 

Malcolm X 
SNCC 

Occupy Wall Street 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Elephant Journal. “Buddhism and 
the Occupy Movement: Taking Care 
of Our Anger," by Michael Stone 

http://trb.la/xuhdo8 

Video: “You're Doing It Right: UC Davis 
Students Respond with Silent, Powerful 
Protest of Pepper Spraying" 

http://trb.la/yh0k5z 

Video: “Occupy Wall Street: Chris Hedges 
Shuts Down CBC's Kevin O’Leary" 

http://trb.la/y61Rrm 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


Anger is a double-edged sword. Or perhaps it’s more like 
a water hose: it’s full of force, it’s hard to control, and it’s 
important where you aim it. 

There is a crucial distinc- 
tion to be made between moral 
indignation and self-righteous- 
ness. Moral indignation chan- 
nels anger into resolve, courage 
and powerful assertions of 
dignity. Think: the civil rights 
movement. Self-righteousness, on 
the other hand, is predictable 
and easily dismissed. Think: 
masked 16 -year-olds holding 
a banner that says “SMASH 
CAPITALISM AND EAT THE 
RICH.” 

Have you seen the scene of 
the “Malcolm X” movie where 
an army of outraged people 
gather and stand in perfect 
formation, with perfect pos- 
ture, outside a prison to 
demand the release of their 
friend? It was so bad-ass! They were all wearing suits, they 
stood as one, and their discipline clearly communicated: we’re 
mad as hell, we’re right, you’re wrong, and you’re going to give us 
what we want. 

Integrity gives deep meaning and moral force to anger. 
We should never come off as mad-for-the-sake-of-being-mad, 
but rather as reluctantly, genuinely angry in the face of out- 
rageous circumstances. Rather than reacting, we respond. 
Rather than lashing out, we stand our ground. 

Of course, suppressing legitimate anger can be as 
debilitating as hair-trigger reactions. Parts of the Left have 
been held back because we are afraid to express or channel 
popular outrage. Unable to tap into large-scale disaffection, 


“Integrity gives 
deep meaning 
and moral force to 
anger. We should 
never come off 
as mad-for-the- 
sake-of-being- 
mad, but rather 
as reluctantly, 
genuinely angry 
in the face of 
outrageous 
circumstances ” 


PRINCIPLE: Anger works best when you have the moral high ground 


Related: 


if 






V 




5 % 







it 


TACTICS 

Creative disruption p. 18 
Infiltration p. 64 
Public filibuster p. 86 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Blockade p. 14 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 

Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 160 

Pace yourself p. 158 

Take leadership from the most 

impacted p. 180 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 

Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Homo q & hamas p. 236 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
The tactic s of everyday life p. 268 
Anti-oppression p. 212 
Points of intervention p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 


Malcolm X's anger was earned by a life of oppression, and he wielded it with discipline and dignity. 

we remain marginal. By contrast, many youth movements self- 
marginalize precisely because their anger doesn’t resonate. 
Find the sweet spot between the two. 


PRINCIPLE: Anger works best when you have the moral high ground 


97 



I WLE : 

W Anyone can act 


IN SUM 

Don’t worry about being a 
lousy actor - you’re 
a great one. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Acting is the least mysterious 
of all crafts. Whenever we 
want something from somebody 
or when we want to hide 
something or pretend, we’re acting. 
Most people do it all day long.” 

-Marlon Brando 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 
Sascha Baron Cohen 
Improv Everywhere 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Improv can be an excellent tool for 
overcoming your instincts to shy away 
or duck out. Find a local improv class 
in your community if one's available, 
or check out these seminal texts: 

Halpern, Charna, Del Close, and 
Kim Johnson. Truth in Comedy: The 
Manual of Improvisation. Colorado 
Springs, CO: Meriwether, 1994. 

Madison, Patricia Ryan. Improv 
Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show 
Up. New York: Bell Tower, 2005. 

Boal, Augusto. Games for Actors and 
Non-Actors. New York: Routledge, 2002. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


If you want to pose as someone you’re not — for example, 
while infiltrating a conference — you don’t need to worry 
about being a lousy actor. 



The Yes Men scrutinizing their fake business cards. 

Andy from the Yes Men, for example, is a terrible actor. In 
college he got kicked out of a play. In high school he did really 
well in an audition, once, and got a part — but then was atro- 
cious in the actual performance, as he couldn’t stay interested 
in the role. Yes Man Mike, for his part, once played the role 
of a dinosaur in an elementary school play. He was good at 
it, but only because you couldn’t actually see his expression, 
which was most likely not the least bit credible. 

OK, you’ll say, but Andy looks very convincing when he ap- 
pears on the BBC, posing as a spokesperson for Dow Chemi- 
cal. Actually, look closely: he’s terrified. The whole time see 
PRINCIPLE: Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel. But after a week 
of solid rehearsals, he managed to pretty much memorize 
everything he had to say and spit it out. His terrified look 
became the look of a nervous PR flak, which is exactly what 
he’d turned himself into. Professional PR people are probably 
terrified too, but they’re very, very rehearsed. 

Rehearsing is one of the two keys to successful “acting,” 


98 


PRINCIPLE: Anyone can act 



“You’ll quickly 
find that when 
everyone in the 
room believes that 
you’re a particular 
person , a magical 
thing happens: 
you start to 
believe it as well.’’ 


which in this context is basically 
synonymous with “keeping your 
shit together.” (Incidentally, 
here’s how you can become an 
excellent PR flak yourself: just 
memorize the five answers you 
want to give, and recite them in 
response to whatever question 
you’re asked, with appropriate 
hemming and hawing, which, 
in the biz is called “bridging” 
see PRINCIPLE: Stay on message. 

That’s all there is to it! And it 
works whether you’re pretend- 
ing to be Dow Chemical on TV, 

posing at a conference as the CIA or speaking as yourself to a 
reporter about your latest action.) 

The second key to keeping your shit together (AKA acting) 
is to realize that once you’re up there, pretty much anything 
you do is going to be fine. After all, you’re the most important 
person in the room! 

You’ll quickly find that when everyone in the room believes 
that you’re a particular person, a magical thing happens: you 
start to believe it as well. That’s what makes “identity cor- 
rection” see PRINCIPLE so much easier than regular acting. 
When you’re a regular actor, everyone in the room knows 
you’re not actually Hamlet, or Sweeney Todd’s wife, or an 
elementary-school dinosaur — and they have to work plenty 
hard to “suspend disbelief.” In hoax-like acting, the audience 
already believes you are who you’re billed as. It’s suspension of 
disbelief in reverse: under the influence of your audience, you 
end up believing it as well, and acting just right. 

A quick way to test the principle: just put on a suit or 
business dress, and notice how you act differently. See? 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Identity correction p. 60 
Hoax p. 54 
Infiltration p. 64 
Invisible theater p. 66 

PRINCIPLES 

Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Use other people’s prejudic- 
es against them p. 192 
Stay on message p. 178 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

CASE STUDIES 

Bidder 70 p. 290 

Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p. 318 
Public Option Annie p. 346 
Insurgent Rebel Clown Army web 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 


PRINCIPLE: Anyone can act 


PRINCIPLE : 

W Balance art and message 


IN SUM 

Effective creative interventions 
require a judicious balance of 
art and message. It’s not just 
what you say, it’s how you say 
it. If the role of the artist is to 
“deepen the mystery,” what is 
the role of the political artist? 

EPIGRAPH 

“Art is not a mirror held up 
to reality, but a hammer 
with which to shape it.” 

-Bertolt Brecht 

PRACTITIONERS 

Bread and Puppet Theater 
Art and Revolution Collective 
ACT-UP 
Gran Fury 
I Dream Your Dream 
Suzanne Lacy 
Reverend Billy & the Church 
of Earthalujah 
El Teatro Campesino 
Coco Fusco 
Living Theater 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Kevin Buckland 
Andrew Boyd 
Nadine Bloch 


100 


“Political art.” Easily said, harder to do. Art seeks to explore 
the deep questions. Politics demands a clear direction and 
message. That’s a tough tension to manage. Sometimes quick 
gimmicks are called for; sometimes it pays to dig deeper — in 
our craft and in ourselves — to mobilize the unique powers 
of art. 

“If I could tell you what it meant,” Martha Graham once 
said, “there would be no point in dancing it.” Unlike politics, 
which tends toward plain prose in endless repetition, art goes 
beyond explicit meanings to connect with that more elusive, 
soulful dimension of being human — a realm which must 
be engaged if we are to truly change the world see THEORY: 
Ethical Spectacle. 

Song has its own special powers. Singing together builds 
emotional ties and harmonies — literally and figuratively. 
Song makes us feel powerful and united in a way nothing 
else can. During the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, the 
Estonian liberation movement used the country’s traditional 
songs in resistance work. At one juncture, a full quarter of the 
country’s population sang together in the streets, facing down 
Soviet tanks. 

Consider the power of Picasso’s Guernica. A striking and 
visceral canvas painted in protest of the first aerial bombing 
of civilians, its aura as a global symbol of the senseless devasta- 
tion of war was still strong enough seventy years later that the 
Bush Administration felt compelled to throw a cloth over a 
tapestry copy of it when Colin Powell spoke at the UN pushing 
for war with Iraq. Images from Guernica continue to resur- 
face in anti-war marches the world over. 

Advertising is the dominant art form of capitalism, as well 
as a science of messaging. In the late 1980’s Gran Fury, an 
AIDS activist art collective see PRACTITIONERS, used the 
artistic and messaging power of graphics to bring the AIDS 
epidemic front and center and move a critical social conversa- 
tion in a direction it had never gone before. Their “Kissing 
Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do” bus ads featuring 
same- and mixed-sex couples kissing were not only explicit in 
their visual content, but beautiful, hip, emotive and evocative. 

Art invites us to think rather than telling us what to think. 


PRINCIPLE: Balance art and message 



This is one of its great powers, and if you make your art acces- 
sible and beautiful enough, people will want to follow where 
the thought goes. And because they’re deciding where to go 
with it, they’ll more easily connect it to their own experience. 

The right balance of art and message can move both 
hearts and minds. Striking this balance, however, can be dif- 
ficult. Think about your audience and your goals. What do 
you want your art to achieve? Do you want to evoke sympathy? 
Provoke deep soul-searching on a given issue? Get people to 
call their Senator? Art can help you do all of these things, but 
only when art and message are in balance. You know you’ve 
struck gold when you’re able to say something so clearly that it 
hardly needs to be said at all, but is instead embodied in the 
way you say it. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Creative communication can get lots of 
attention — so make sure to connect that attention to your 
desired action. Give people the tools to act on your issue, even 
if it’s just a URL or a phone number. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

M arc O’Brien and Craig Little, Reimaging 
America: The Arts of Social Change. 
Philadelphia: New Society, 1990. 

Queer Arts, “AIDS: Making 
Art & Raising Hell" 

http://trb.la/w28Uab 

Douglas Crimp with Adam Rolston. 

AIDS DEMOGRAPHICS. 

Seattle: Bay Press, 1990. 

Documentary: The Singing Revolution 

http://www.singingrevolution.com 

Video: Amandla! A revolution in 
Four Part Harmony 

http://trb.la/ydpzt 

Video: Amnesty International, 

“Making the invisible visible " 

http://trb.la/x3XU4n 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Artistic vigil p. 10 
Human banner p. 56 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Flash mob p. 46 
Image theater p. 62 

PRINCIPLES 

Stay on message p. 178 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 154 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 

Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 

Don't dress like a protester p. 126 

Consider your audience p. 118 

THEORIES 

Floating signifier p. 234 
Alienation effect p. 210 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 

CASE STUDIES 

99% bat signal p. 278 
Virtual Streetcorners p. 388 
Small gifts p. 360 


PRINCIPLE: Balance art and message 




PRINCIPLE : 


eware the tyranny of 
structurelessness 


IN SUM 

Sometimes the least 
structured group can be the 
most tyrannical. Counter by 
promoting accountability 
within the group. 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Jo Freeman, “The Tyranny 
of Strucurelessness" 

http://trb.la/ywAM7u 

How to organize and facilitate 
meetings effectively 

http:lltrb. la/y8EE5S 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Josh Bolotsky 


Have you ever sat through an interminable meeting where 
everyone is theoretically on equal grounding, and yet only 
one or two people are doing eighty percent of the talking? 
Where there’s no facilitator, for fear of introducing hierar- 
chy, and so the discussion goes in endless circles, never quite 
sure when it’s finished? Where new members lose patience 
because their suggestions are ignored and their ideas left to 
float in the ether? 

Welcome to the tyranny of structurelessness. 

Jo Freeman’s seminal 1970 essay “The Tyranny of Struc- 
turelessness” put a name to the persistent problem that 
plagues decision makers in non-hierarchical groupings, orga- 
nizations or collectives. 1 Freeman argued that by claiming to 
eschew hierarchy, or even leadership, activists are really uni- 
laterally disarming themselves 
when it comes to identifying 
and correcting impediments to 
effective collective action. As 
she points out, “there is no such 
thing as a structureless group.” 

This means that to strive 
for a structureless group is 
as useful, and as deceptive, 
as to aim at an “objective” 
news story, “value-free” social 
science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez-faire” group is 
about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the idea 
becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to 
establish unquestioned hegemony over others... Thus 
structurelessness becomes a way of masking power. 

It would be bad enough if structurelessness merely led to 
bruised feelings and longer meetings, but there is a further 
problem: it simply doesn’t work for long. If you’re engaging in 
any kind of long-term campaign, a lack of accountability and 
organized incorporation of feedback will often prove fatal. 


“Accountability 
is what gives 
democracy its bite, 
distinguishing it 
from a rote exercise 
in communicating 
preferences ” 


PRINCIPLE: Beware the tyranny of structurelessness 


So what’s the way out of a structureless organization that 
is not working properly? The best cure is prevention: establish 
clear processes from the start. But if you’re stuck in such an 
arrangement, and wish to change the culture to something 
more democratic and participatory, the key concept to intro- 
duce and press for isn’t hierarchy per se, but accountability. 

Accountability is what gives democracy its bite, distinguish- 
ing it from a rote exercise in communicating preferences. It 
involves the establishment of real consequences when the 
expressed will of the people is not implemented as promised. 
(By contrast, structurelessness provides plenty of ways to note 
collective preferences, but precious few equitable or effective 
ways to ensure they’re acted upon.) Hierarchy is a particular 
vision of how accountability is carried out, but for the hierarchy- 
adverse it’s by no means the only one. 

There are as many organizational structures as there are 
philosophies of collective action. But they virtually all share 
one thing in common: for better or worse, they acknowledge 
their own structure, instead of hiding behind unlikely and 
obfuscating assertions of structurelessness. That acknowledg- 
ment, and the accountability it fosters, is the only way to en- 
sure effective and equitable decision-making. 


Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Consensus is a means, not on end p. 11 6 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 102 

Don't mistake your group for society p. 130 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 

Delegate p. 122 

We are all leaders p. 202 

Enable, don’t command p. 132 

THEORIES 

Movement as network web 
Cycles of social movements web 


1 Structurelessness is often mistakenly conflated with absence of hierarchy, when in fact, effective non- 
hierarchical forms of organizing actually require a great deal of structure. Anyone who has partici- 
pated in an effectively facilitated general assembly or spokescouncil meeting will well understand this 
distinction. 


PRINCIPLE: Beware the tyranny of structurelessness 


103 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Brand or be branded 


IN SUM 

Branding is one of the more 
misunderstood communication 
concepts, especially among 
anti-corporate activists, 
who can and should use 
branding to their advantage. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Success means never letting 
the competition define you. 
Instead you have to define 
yourself based on a point of 
view you care deeply about.” 

-Tom Chappell, Tom’s of Maine 

PRACTITIONERS 

Adbusters 
ACT-UP 
Gran Fury 
Otpor! 
Greenpeace 
The Yes Men 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Adbusters 

www.adbusters.org 

AIDS: Making Art & 
Raising Hell 

http://trb.la/w28Uab 

Center for Applied Nonviolent 
Action & Strategies [CANVAS/ 
Otpor!], “Protest and Persuasion” 

http://trb. la/AxZcyP 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Cristian Fleming 


104 


Branding is a dirty word for many activists, but it really just 
means “the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relation- 
ships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision 
to choose one product or service over another.” If we take 
branding out of the realm of consumption and into the inter- 
play of ideas in the public sphere, then we see that the tools of 
branding can be used for more than just selling soap. 

Three important points to keep in mind about branding: 

Branding isn’t inherently “corporate.” Branding is really 
nothing more than a set of proven principles for associat- 
ing, in the collective imagination, a certain word, phrase 
or image with a set of emotions or ideas. There’s nothing 
inherently capitalist about that. Corporations use branding 
because it works. Anti-corporate activists can use it, too. 

Branding can make the difference between success and failure. 

Every movement wants its message to be heard, but simply 
being right won’t sell your ideas. The human mind needs 
to be persuaded. 

There are copious examples of movements using brand- 
ing effectively. In the ’90s, for instance, an adherence to a 
certain aesthetic helped unify the Otpor! youth movement 
that swept Serbia and ousted Slobodan Milosevic. 

Whatever the context, if you craft your message for 
your intended audience, then that audience will want to 
know more. It’s as simple as engaging people in a dia- 
logue that appeals to them. If they feel you aren’t talking 
to them, they’ll ignore you — or worse, work against you. 

You’ll be branded whether you like it or not, so be proactive. 

Even conspicuously “unbranded” campaigns have a brand. 
Despite its efforts to avoid defining itself, the Occupy 
movement ended up with an effective brand when the 
“99 %” meme organically emerged as the touchstone for 
people within and outside the movement. 

If you decline to brand yourself, you leave an opening 
for other people — including enemies — to brand you 
instead. Operating within someone else’s frame is always 


PRINCIPLE: Brand or be branded 



Related: 



Even AdBusters' famous anti-branding philosophy uses strong branding conventions. Here's a sneaker from their 
“black-spot" campaign, also known as the “unswoosh." 

more difficult than operating within a frame that you 
yourself have set. Think of your group’s brand as water 
spewing out of a hose. You can either leave the hose on 
the ground, or you can pick it up and direct its llow. Either 
way, the water continues to llow — and if you don’t pick up 
the hose, someone else will! 

Branding is an opportunity to shape your message and 
ultimately use the power of that message, its meaning, and its 
delivery to win the war of ideas. There’s no such thing as an 
unbranded campaign or movement — though there are plenty 
of examples of poorly branded ones. Brand or be branded. 


TACTICS 

Human banner p. 56 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Identity correction p. 60 
Media-jacking p. 72 

PRINCIPLES 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Think narratively p. 186 
Reframe p. 168 

Balance art and message p. 100 
Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Floating signifier p. 234 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Memes p. 242 
The social cure p. 264 

CASE STUDIES 

Yomango p. 400 
99% bat signal p. 278 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Harry Potter Alliance p. 322 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Branding, like anything, can be overdone. 
If people feel like something is being “sold” to them, they’ll 
respond negatively. 


1 Seth Godin, “define: Brand," Seth’s Blog, December 13, 2009, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_ 
blog/2009/12/define-brand.html. 


PRINCIPLE: Brand or be branded 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Bring the issue home 


IN SUM 

Creative activists can make an 
otherwise abstract, far-away 
issue relevant by making it 
personal, visceral and local. 

EPIGRAPH 

“If facts are the seeds that 
later produce knowledge and 
wisdom, then the emotions 
and the impressions of the 
senses are the fertile soil in 
which the seeds must grow.” 

-Rachel Carson 

PRACTITIONERS 

CODEPINK Women for Peace 
[ www.codepink.org ] 

American Friends Service Committee 
Iraq Veterans Against the War 
Veterans for Peace 
Amazon Watch 
National People's Action Network 
Occupy Together 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Walk in Their Shoes action guide 

www.codepink.org/shoes 

Peace Ribbon Project [useful for 
making a quilt on any issue] 

www.codepink.org/peaceribbon 

Bring Our War $$ Home 
National Campaign 

www.wardollarshome.org 

Video: Rethink Afghanistan: Cost of War 

http://trb.la/xLxf8b 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Rae Abileah 
Jodie Evans 


The destruction of a far-off rainforest. The carnage of war 
thousands of miles away. People care, but usually not enough 
to act on that concern, at least until they understand viscerally 
what’s at stake. Here are a few ways to bring the issue home to 
people with creative visuals, powerful personal narratives and 
by highlighting localized costs. 

Show the human cost 

When the Iraq War was raging, mainstream media didn’t 
show the stream of flag-draped caskets coming off planes 
or images of bombed buildings and dead Iraqis. Most 
Americans, with the exception of military families, didn’t 
viscerally feel the war’s impact. To bring the human cost of 
war home, Nancy Kricorian, a CODEPINK activist in New 
York City, stood outside her senator’s office and arranged 
a row of shoes of all sizes tagged with the names of Iraqi 
civilians who had been killed, and asked passersby to “walk 
in their shoes.” Her gesture was picked up and repeated 
across the country. In a similar spirit, veterans have met on 
the beach in Santa Monica, California, every Sunday since 
the start of the Iraq War, to set up a held of white crosses 
in neat rows across the beach — one for each soldier who 
has died. A powerful reminder of the human cost of war, at 
once intimate and horrific. 

Make it personal 

Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum was recently 
planning to expand its operations in the Peruvian Ama- 
zon jungle. Well-researched pleas to halt the drilling got 
nowhere. That all changed when a delegation of native 
Achuar people (who would have been displaced by the 
drilling, their ancestral lands ravaged) traveled to the U.S. 
to share their story. The issue shifted from stopping an oil 
project to defending the homes of these people. Occiden- 
tal had to cancel the project, and the Achuar are pursuing 
legal claims against Occidental for environmental dam- 
age already done. Bringing forward the names, faces and 
stories of your far-away issue makes the consequences of 
inaction far more real and relevant. 


106 


PRINCIPLE: Bring the issue home 


Put a price tag on it 

If people don’t connect to the human cost of an issue, 
reaching their pocketbooks is another route. In 2005, 
when the historic Steinbeck Library in Salinas, California, 
was threatened with closure due to drastic budget cuts, 
farm workers and peace advocates joined forces and held 
a twenty-four-hour read-in to keep the library open, draw- 
ing attention to the money spent on waging wars rather 
than other priorities. Before the read-in, few in Salinas 
cared enough about the Iraq war to protest it; twenty-four 
hours later, the entire community understood how the 
high price of occupation affected them. When the local 
consequences of global policies are highlighted, people’s 
circle of concern often widens. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Creative disruption p. 18 
Advanced leafleting p. 8 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Occupation p. 78 
Art intervention web 

PRINCIPLES 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Think narratively p. 186 

THEORIES 

Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Action logic p. 208 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Stolen Beauty boycott campaign p. 364 
Taco Bell boycott p. 372 
Occupy Wall Street web 


“Daughter of Hussein al Tarish, Age 3." A pair of shoes from CODEPINK's "Walk in Their Shoes" anti-war action. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Be careful not to focus solely on the fi- 
nancial cost of the issue. Imagine if peace advocates only 
held up signs about the amount of money spent on war, with 
no mention of the lives lost. Use dollar figures only when it 
makes sense. 


PRINCIPLE: Bring the issue home 




allenge patriarchy 
as you organize 


IN SUM 

Like all other unjust and 
arbitrary systems of authority 
and power, patriarchy must 
be actively challenged in 
political organizing if we are to 
achieve collective liberation. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Patriarchy is a political-social 
system that insists that males 
are inherently dominating, 
superior to everything and 
everyone deemed weak, 
especially females, and 
endowed with the right to 
dominate and rule over the 
weak and to maintain that 
dominance through various 
forms of psychological 
terrorism and violence.” 

-bell hooks 

PRACTITIONERS 

Guerrilla Girls 
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 
Eve Easier 
CODEPINK: Women for Peace 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Harsha Walia 



(Left to right) ‘I think she made the whole thing up.' ‘She’s just a crazy bitch.’ ‘Look, SWEETIE: class should come first. 
The rest is just divisive.’ ‘It’s not really as bad as you say it is.' In order to be an effective comrade/ally you have to chal- 
lenge patriarchy within yourself, and within the group. Art by Suzy Exposito. 

Patriarchy is a system of unequal power relations that gives 
men privileges in all areas of our lives — social, economic, 
institutional, cultural, political, and spiritual — while women 
and gender non-conforming people are systemically dis- 
advantaged. Feminism is not about “man-hating”; it is about 
transforming the socially constructed and hierarchical 
ideology of patriarchy. Since patriarchy pervades society, it is 
no surprise that it pervades social movements as well. So a 
commitment to feminist praxis that challenges the toxic 
impact of patriarchy in organizing efforts is essential to building 
inclusive movements. 

Given the urgency of confronting “big issues” like cor- 
porate power, militarization and environmental destruc- 
tion, patriarchy and sexism within our groups often remain 
unaddressed. Some male allies feel they are not capable of 
sexism; but simply believing in gender equality does not 
erase male privilege. If we want to challenge patriarchy, we 
must understand how our actions and assumptions are in- 
fluenced by the prevalence of sexism in our consciousness 
and social relations. 


PRINCIPLE: Challenge patriarchy as you organize 


There are five key ways in which sexism manifests itself in 
our social movements: 

1 Women face an uphill battle to prove their intelligence 
and commitment as political activists. 

2 Political meetings are dominated by male speakers and 
leaders, while secretarial work, cooking, childcare, and 
the emotional labor of supporting community well-be- 
ing are largely borne by women. This gendered division 
of labor is a frequently reproduced patriarchal pattern. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Alas!, “The Male Privilege Checklist,’’ 
Barry Deutsch 

http://trb.la/yo1Smp 

Colours of Resistance Archive, “Tools for 
White Guys who are Working for Social 
Change and other people socialized in a 
society based on domination,’’ Chris Crass 

http://trb.la/zlz2ml 

Cherrie M oraga and Gloria E. Anzaldua, 
eds. This Bridge Called My Back: 
Writings by Radical Women of Color, 
[Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press, 2002] 


3 Women continue to be sexually objectified. Women of 
color and femme women in particular are fetishized, 
obscuring the dynamics of racism, fatphobia, ability 
and hetero-patriarchy behind “personal preferences.” 


4 Women are more likely to 
challenge men on sexist com- 
ments than men are. Given 
the particular socialization 
of women under patriarchy, 
seemingly minor comments 
or incidents can leave women 
and gender non-conforming 
people feeling humiliated, 
angry or upset; yet such 
comments are often dis- 
missed as harmless. Women 
discussing sexism are often 
characterized as “divisive” 
or “over-ractive” and wom- 
en’s concerns are belittled unless validated by other 
men. This highlights disrspect for women’s voices in 
discussing their own oppression. 


“Transforming 
gender roles is 
not about guilt 
or blame; it is 
about a lifelong 
learning process 
to effectively and 
humbly confront 
oppression.” 


5 Feminism is not seen as central to revolutionary or col- 
lective struggle; instead it is relegated to a special-inter- 
est issue. This results in the trivialization of women’s 
issues, particularly violence against women and repro- 
ductive justice. 


Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: 
Women, The Body, and Primitive 
Accumulation, 

[Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2004] 

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism 
without Borders: Decolonizing 
Theory, Practicing Solidarity, 

[Duke University Press, 2003] 

Jessica Yee, ed. Feminism FOR REAL: 
Deconstructing the academic industrial 
complex of feminism, [Ottawa: Canadian 
Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2011] 

Video: Shit MANarchists Say 
[YouTube Jan 25, 2012] 

http://trb.la/zpgVWF 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

THEORIES 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Capitalism p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 


PRINCIPLE: Challenge patriarchy as you organize 


Transforming gender roles is not about guilt or blame; it is 
about a lifelong learning process to effectively and humbly 
confront oppression. Some ways to build pro-feminist commu- 
nities include: a shared division of labor; encouraging women’s 
voices and leadership in non-tokenizing ways; respecting self- 
identification by using preferred names and pronouns; be- 
ing pro-active in breaking the silence around sexual violence 
within broader society and activist communities; making our 
groups safe spaces in which to raise and address issues; and 
not marginalizing women’s issues or placing the sole responsi- 
bility for fighting oppression on the oppressed. 

We must also realize that we do not just want “more” women’s 
representation; rather, we must actively facilitate and high- 
light women’s own analysis and experiences of capitalism 
and oppression, especially those of women of color. Though 
patriarchy affects women much more severely, it distorts the 
humanity of all genders and reduces our ability to be in kinship 
with one another. Smashing patriarchy is not just a collective 
responsibility — it is ultimately about personal and interper- 
sonal growth and collective liberation. 


1 This is an abridged version of a lengthier piece available on the Colours of Resistance website. 


110 


PRINCIPLE: Challenge patriarchy as you organize 


DURING TIMES OF 
UNIVERSAL DECEIT 
TELLING THE TR 
DECO 


7 


— George Orwell 




oose tactics that 
support your strategy 


IN SUM 

Don’t let an individual tactic 
distract from a larger strategy. 
Strategy is your overall 
plan, and tactics are those 
things you do to implement 
the plan - a distinction 
critical for structuring 
effective campaigns. 

EPIGRAPH 

“If you don't have a strategy, you're 
part of someone else's strategy." 

-Alvin Toffler 

PRACTITIONERS 

National organizations: 

ACORN 

Industrial Areas Foundation 
Midwest Academy 
USAction 

Center for Third World Organizing 
National Peoples Action 
PICO 
Dart 
Gamaliel 

Center for Community Change 

Issue groups, including: 

Sierra Club 

National Organization of Women [NOW) 

Many local community organizations 
and worker centers 


Strategy involves identifying your group’s power and then 
finding specific ways to concentrate it in order to achieve 
your goals. Organizing a rally, for example, should never be 
thought of as a strategy. It’s a tactic. Before you can identify 
appropriate tactics, you need to identify your target see PRIN- 
CIPLE: Choose your target wisely and figure out what power 
you can bring to bear against it. 

Developing a strategy requires: 

• analyzing the problem; 

• identifying your goal (formulation of demands); 

• understanding your target- — who holds the power to 
meet your demands; 

• identifying specific forms of power you have over your 
target and how to concentrate that power to maximal 
effect. 

If your target is a city councilor whose vote you need in 
order to pass a living wage ordinance, tactics that concen- 
trate your power must involve or influence voters in her dis- 
trict in some way. 

If your target is a bank that is carrying out foreclosures, 
tactics that concentrate your power must involve or influ- 
ence their customers or regulators. 

Within that framework, tactics are specific activities that: 

• mobilize a specific type and amount of power; 

• are directed at a specific target; 

• are intended to achieve a specific objective. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Janice Fine 


In choosing a tactic you must always be able to answer the 
question: “What is the power behind the tactic?” In other 
words, how does the tactic give you leverage over your tar- 
get? 

We use tactics to demonstrate (or imply) a certain form 
of power. For example, when we carry out an action against 
a particular company, our underlying power is economic — 


PRINCIPLE: Choose tactics that support your strategy 


it must cost them time or customers. That’s why disruption 
matters. If we target an elected official, our underlying power 
is political — our tactic must cost them contributions or votes. 
(The power to “embarrass” is only effective if embarrassing 
your target costs them money or votes by making voters or 
donors question their moral legitimacy. Embarrassment in 
and of itself isn’t a form of power.) 

In community organizing, power can be broken down into 
two broad categories: 

Strategic power 

Power that is sufficiently strong to win the issue. 

Tactical power 

Power that can move you along toward a goal and help you 

gain ground, but is itself not decisive. 

Once we understand the forms of power we can deploy, 
we are ready to develop our campaign plan. 

A campaign is a series of tactics deployed over a specified 
period of time, each of which builds the strength of the or- 
ganization and puts increasing pressure on the target until 
it gives in on your specific demands. A campaign is not a 
series of events on a common theme; it is a series of tactics, 
each one carefully selected for its power to ratchet up pres- 
sure on a target over time. All tactics are connected, and 
each one is chosen on the basis of how much work it requires 
to pull off and how much pressure it will bring to bear. 

A campaign is not endless; it has a beginning, middle 
and end. It ends, ideally, in a specific victory: people get 
something they wanted or needed, and/or the target agrees 
to do something they previously refused to do. 


1 The author wishes to acknowledge Midwest Academy and Northeast Action, both of whom assisted in 
developing the curriculum that this module is based on. 

2 Often it’s important to identify “secondary targets.” These are individuals who have significant 
power over your target and over whom you may have more power than you have over your 
primary target ( see CASE: Taco Bell Boycott ]. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A 
Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals 
[New York: Random House, 1971] 

Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals 
[New York: Random House, 1989] 

John Atlas, Seeds of Change 
[Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt 
University Press, 2010] 

Gary Delgado, Organizing the 
Movement: The Roots and Growth 
of ACORN [Philadelphia, PA: 

Temple University Press, 1986) 

Michael Gecan, Going Public: An 
Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action 
[New York: Anchor Books, 2004) 

Rogers, Mary Beth, Cold Anger [Austin, 
TX: University of North Texas Press, 1990) 

Mark Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: 
Community Building to Revitalize 
American Democracy [Princeton, NJ: 
Princeton University Press, 2001) 


Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Put your target in a decision 
dilemma p. 1 66 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
Think narratively p. 186 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 
Justice for Janitors p. 326 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 
The salt march p. 354 
Tar sands action p. 376 


PRINCIPLE: Choose tactics that support your strategy 



oose your target wisely 


IN SUM 

We increase our chances of 
victory when our actions 
target the person or entity 
with the institutional power 
to meet our demands. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Power concedes nothing 
without a demand. It never 
did and it never will.” 

-Frederick Douglass 

PRACTITIONERS 

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty 
Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Saul Alinsky & Midwest Academy 
Industrial Workers of the World 
UK Uncut 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Dirks, Yutaka. “From the Jaws of Defeat: 
Four Thoughts on Social Change Strategy." 
Briarpatch Magazine [Nov.-Dee. 2011], 

http://trb.la/AAb568 

Alinksy, Saul. Rules for Radicals: A 
Pragmatic Primer for Realistic 
Radicals. New York: Vintage, 1989. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Yutaka Dirks 


Victories don’t come by throwing fists in all directions at 
once, hoping to land a knockout punch by chance alone. 
Winning takes training, preparation and strategic think- 
ing in order to land blows where they will have the greatest 
impact. Choosing the right target and figuring out how to 
effectively apply pressure is essential. 



The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) chooses their targets wisely-they “Fight to Win." 

Since the early 2000s, the Ontario Coalition Against Pov- 
erty (OCAP), a radical anti-poverty organization based in 
Toronto, Canada, has organized under the slogan “Fight to 
Win.” It’s a simple slogan packed with meaning: to win, you’ve 
got to fight. But the point isn’t to fight; the point is to win. 

An organization run by and for the poor, OCAP has 
proven extremely effective in compelling politicians, wel- 
fare workers and employers to grant the concrete gains they 
seek. In one of many successful actions, for example, OCAP 
prevented a gas station from pumping gas until the employer 
came out with money owed to a former employee. Similarly, 
mass delegations by OCAP to welfare offices have led to the 
reinstatement of benefits for low-income members. OCAP 


PRINCIPLE: Choose your target wisely 


has been effective because it recognizes that social change 
conies through struggle, which involves articulating clear 
demands and applying targeted pressure on those in power 
to comply with those demands. 

Nothing is more demor- 
alizing to folks who have put 
many long hours into a fun 
and creative action than to 
hear the target of the action 
say: “I don’t have the power to 
do that for you, even if I want- 
ed to. The guy you want is next door.” (And actually have 
that be a true statement rather than a blow-off line.) When 
we plan our actions and campaigns, we have to understand 
our targets and what makes them tick, taking care to focus 
on the person with the power to meet our demands: to sign 
the check, to introduce the legislation or to cancel the con- 
tract. 

Not every target is vulnerable in the same way. A block- 
ade, occupation or creative disruption may be effective 
against one target but not against another. What works once 
may not work a second time. We need to figure out where 
our target is weakest, and where we are strongest. What 
actions can we take that are outside their experience? Nothing 
rattles a target more than something they aren’t prepared 
to deal with. 

You might not have enough power to push your primary 
target at first, but your actions may help you identify a secondary 
target — an individual or group that can be pressured to 
leverage their influence on the primary target. The Coali- 
tion of Immokalee Workers, for instance, won their battle 
by identifying and pressuring a secondary target (fast-food 
corporations) when their primary target (tomato growers) 
proved immovable see CASE: Taco Bell boycott. 

We are creative folks. If we’re smart about where and how 
we apply pressure, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. 


“To win , you’ve got 
to fight But the 
point isn’t to fight; 
the point is to win.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 
Sit-in web 
General Strike p. 50 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 1 66 
Pick battles big enough to matter, 
small enough to win web 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 272 
Pillars of support p.248 
Activist realpolitik web 

CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 


PRINCIPLE: Choose your target wisely 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Consensus is a means, not an end 


IN SUM 

The two foundational values 
of consensus decision making 
are empowering every person’s 
full participation in decision 
making, and respecting and 
accommodating diverse 
opinions. These values are 
more important than the 
form itself, which activists 
should modify as needed 
to uphold these values. 

EPIGRAPH 

“The problem is not that of 
taking power, but rather 
who exercises it.” 

-Subcomandante Marcos 

PRACTITIONERS 

Occupy General Assemblies 
Spain's Indignados 
Zapatistas ( EZLN ] 
Anti-nuclear movements 
of the ‘70s and ‘80s 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Starhawk. The Empowerment Manual. A 
Guide for Collaborative Groups. 
Canada, New Society Publishers. 2011. 

Butler, C. T., and Amy Rothstein. On 
Conflict and Consensus: A Handbook on 
Formal Consensus Decisionmaking. 

http://www.ic.org/pnp/ocac/ 

Speck, Andreas. “Consensus Decision 
Making.’’ War Resisters inter- 
national, October 14, 2008. 

http://www.wri-irg.org/node/5165 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Harsha Walia 


Consensus decision making is an egalitarian and inclusive 
method of reaching agreement based on the active partici- 
pation and consent of group members to collectively reach 
a decision. Consensus decision making focuses as much on 
the underlying processes and values as the decision itself. 
The word consensus has its roots in the Latin word consentire, 
meaning “to experience or feel together.” 

Consensus is rooted in many decentralized models of 
direct democracy practiced across the world — from village 
panchayats in India to the indigenous Haudenosaunee 
Confederacy (aka Iroquois), from Quaker meetings to anar- 
chist spokescouncils. 

Consensus stands in stark contrast to simple voting 
procedures or Robert’s Rules of Order, in which proposals 
are debated and then voted on, with majority rule. Consen- 
sus, on the other hand, is a prehgurative affirmation of our 
power to organize ourselves in accordance with the princi- 
ples of direct democracy: horizontal, participatory, inclusive, 
cooperative and non-coercive. As author David Graeber has 
written of consensus, “Ultimately it aspires to reinvent daily 
life as whole.” 

A common abuse of consensus, however, is a dogmatic 
attachment to the structures and forms with which it is 
associated, which can sometimes be as exclusive and alienat- 
ing as the systems it seeks to replace. If this is happening, the 
response should not be “Well this is how consensus works!” 
Instead, it is our collective responsibility to delve into the 
dynamics that might be creating these negative reactions. 

There are five common problems with consensus that 
can create frustration. First, consensus often reproduces 
majoritarian rule by creating sectarian camps of those in 
agreement versus those who are blocking. Contrary to popular 
belief, consensus does not necessarily mean unanimous 
agreement. This misconception causes us to wrongly view dis- 
sent as a distraction or obstacle, and increases the pressure 
toward homogenizing opinions. Second, a few voices can 
dominate the discussion, a problem that tends to perpetuate 
power imbalances around race, class, gender, and education 
level. Third, there is often a faulty assumption that silence im- 


116 


PRINCIPLE.Consensus is a means, not an end 


“ A dogmatic 
attachment to 
the structures and 
forms of consensus 
can sometimes be 
as exclusive and 
alienating as the 
systems it seeks 
to replace." 


plies consent, which can end up 
stifling broader discussion and 
the consideration of alternative 
proposals. Fourth, facilitators 
have an unfortunate tendency 
to exercise covert forms of pow- 
er-over rather than power-with by 
steering the conversation based 
on their own biases. 

The fifth problem with con- 
sensus is more fundamental 
and structural. Ironically, the 
seemingly benign notion that 
all voices are equal can hide the 
uncomfortable truth of system- 
ic inequality. Almost inherently, the consensus process can 
absolve us of actively examining how privilege and oppression 
shape our spaces. 

In an effort to address these problems, many communities 
and collectives use modified forms of consensus — for exam- 
ple, prioritizing and taking leadership from women, people 
of color and those directly affected by decisions being made; 
facilitating small break-out groups to ensure more engaged 
participation; encouraging more debate and discussion rather 
than just asking for blocks; and actively incorporating 
anti-oppression principles to prevent harmful opinions from 
further marginalizing historically disadvantaged peoples. 

Consensus can be beautiful and transformative, but only 
when the structures and processes are meeting the needs 
and desires of those engaging in it. Otherwise, it can be just 
as shackling as more conventionally authoritative decision- 
making systems. Remember, consensus is a means to an end, 
not an end unto itself. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Mass street action p. 68 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
General strike p. 50 

PRINCIPLES 

We are all leaders p. 202 
Take leadership from 
the most impacted p. 180 
Beware the tyranny 
of structurelessness p. 102 
Don't mistake your 
group for society p. 130 
Challenge patriarchy as 
you organize p. 108 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
Delegate p. 122 

THEORIES 

Anti-oppression p. 212 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 
Anarchism web 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 
Battle in Seattle p. 286 


PRINCIPLE: Consensus is a means, not an end 




onsider your audience 


If a banner drops in the forest 
and your target audience isn’t 
around to see it, will it make 


a difference? Probably not. 


“Working with media resources" 

http://wri-irg.org/node/5246 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

War Resisters International, 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Sally Kohn 


IN SUM 



When evaluating the success of a particular action, it doesn’t 
matter what you think about your creative poster or press 
release or civil disobedience. All that matters is what your 
audience thinks. Protesting solely for the sake of self-expres- 
sion and self-gratification? That’s the political equivalent of 
masturbation. Political action that is carefully and thought- 
fully designed and executed to cause a reaction or response 
from a targeted audience? Now that is making love! 

If you’ve already thought up some awesome, off-the-wall 
action and are now trying to figure out who you want to reach 
with it, you’re doing it backwards. The point of creative po- 
litical action isn’t simply to be creative, but to have a desired 
impact on a particular audience. First identify your target 
audience and then brainstorm actions to effectively convey 
your message. A guerrilla musical performance of the latest 
Justin Bieber hit would be awesome — unless you’re trying 
to influence the members of the American Association of 
Retired Persons. 

Remember that there is no right audience, just the audi- 
ence that is right for your particular goals. Try this basic 
formula: we can get A to do B if they believe C. A is your 
audience, B is your objective and C is your message. Design 
your action or actions toward getting A to believe C. 

If your core tactics and actions aren’t explicitly and stra- 


118 


PRINCIPLE: Consider your audience 


tegically designed to get the 
desired impact on your target 
audience, you’re not being stra- 
tegic. That Bieber number may 
be fun and the hits on YouTube 
astronomical, but will it reach 
your senior citizen target audi- 
ence? Baby, quit playin’. 

Traditional artists don’t 
necessarily worry about their 
audience’s experience. For 
them, creative self-expression 
may suffice. But for political 
artists, the audience is every- 
thing. The purpose of political 
art is the reaction of those who 
over your tree in a grand act of 
people are watching, and that 
noise. 


“If you’ve already 
thought up some 
awesome , off-the- 
wall action and 
are now trying 
to figure out who 
you want to reach 
with it, you’re doing 
it backwards.’’ 

experience it. When you push 
theatrics, make sure the right 
they hear one heckuva loud 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Artistic vigil p. 10 
Human banner p. 56 
Banner hang p. 12 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Advanced leafleting p. 8 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose tactics that 

support your strategy p. 112 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

No one wants to watch a drum circle p. 156 

Do the media’s work for them p. 124 

Reframe p. 168 

Shift the spectrum of allies p . 172 

Think narratively p. 186 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 154 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

Stay on message p. 178 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 

Expressive and instrumental actions p. 232 
Hashtag politics p. 238 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Floating signifier p. 234 

CASE STUDIES 

The Big Donor Show p. 294 
99% bat signal p. 278 
The salt march p. 354 


PRINCIPLE: Consider your audience 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Debtors of the world, unite! 


IN SUM 

Today the burden of debt unites 
millions in common struggle, 
providing the basis of a new 
mass movement and new forms 
of large-scale organizing. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Take Back the Land 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

John Ralston Saul, “Unsustainable levels 
of debt.” The Doubter's Companion 

http://trb.la/xaulP2 

Deena Stryker, “Why Iceland 
Should Be in the News, But Is Not.” 
Truthout, August 15, 2011. 

http://trb.la/wdUrvm 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Dmytri Kleiner 


120 


From 2009 to the present, countries from the UK to Chile have 
seen an upsurge of student strikes and school occupations 
to protest raising tuition fees. The 2011 Spanish indignados 
uprising began under the slogan “we are not goods in the hands 
of politicians and bankers.” A few months later, encampment 
protests began in Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard demand- 
ing public housing. Student debt and housing debt are central 
themes in the Occupy movement, which from a few tents in 
New York City spread worldwide. 

These movements were able to build popular support 
because they focused on specific conditions. Many people are 
unable to afford education, health care, housing and child care. 
These conditions all reflect the growing debt burden that many 
carry. Essential goods like housing, education and health care 
have relatively inelastic demand, which means the limit to their 
price is basically everything you have plus everything you can borrow. 
Meanwhile, consumer spending, the engine of the economy, 
is increasingly fuelled not by rising wages, but by cheap credit, 
resulting in greater and greater levels of consumer debt. Today 
the issue of debt unites millions in a common struggle. 

Building a mass movement around debt, like building 
any mass movement, is a consciousness-raising process. For 
the people to be united in a movement, they must possess a 
consciousness of their common interests and their common 
enemies. There must be a consciousness of class, and a willing- 
ness to understand that the only way to change class conditions 
is to unite and fight. Major social changes occur when people 
unite around a common cause. 

Debt is at the core of the market system itself, and the 
solution is not better terms alone, but alternatives to that 
system. Instead of the conservative motto “fair financial 
terms from honest bankers,” we must paint our banners 
with the words “Abolition of the debt system.” Debtors of the 
world, unite! 

New forms of struggle require new forms of organization 
to directly fight for changes. Debtors’ unions are one such 
form: organizing debtors to collectively bargain for favorable 
terms for existing debtors. Just as labor unions bargain for im- 
proved wages and working conditions through the threat of 


PRINCIPLE: Debtors of the world, unite! 



Related: 





P 

• ••> 

P 


P 


P 


TACTICS 

Debt strike p. 24 
Eviction blockade p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 17 2 

THEORIES 

Debt revolt p. 226 
The commons p. 220 
Capitalism p. 216 


San Precario, the Patron Saint of Precarious Workers, emerged as an iconographic figure within Italy in 2004. Dedicat- 
ed to critiquing casual employment contracts and the burden of debt, San Precario spread by playing off of the many 
rituals of saint idolisation, as in the saint card pictured here. 

refusal to work, debtors unions could use organized refusals 
to pay debts to bargain. 

Drawing on mass support from millions of people strug- 
gling to pay their bills, we can build a movement that aspires to 
far more than small reforms to banking and bankruptcy rules, 
but that challenges the entire capitalist system and its drive to 
profit from imposing scarcity on essential goods like education, 
housing, child care and health care. As we find our way across 
this new terrain, we must keep our eyes on the big prize: not 
better terms alone, but alternatives to the market system. 


PRINCIPLE: Debtors of the world, unite! 











elegate 


IN SUM 

In the final analysis, 
groups don’t get things 
done, people do. Delegate! 

EPIGRAPH 

“Leadership is getting 
people to want to do what 
you want them to do.” 

-Dwight D. Eisenhower 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

David Allen, Getting Things Done: 
The Art of Stress-Free 
Productivity. Penguin, 2002. 

Merlin Mann, “Getting started with 
‘Getting Things Done,'” 43 Folders 

http://trb.la/zKXViR 

The principles of democratic 
structuring outlined by Jo Freeman 
in “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” 

http://trb.la/ywAM7u 

Francesca Polletta, Freedom Is an 
Endless Meeting: Democracy in 
American Social Movements. 
University of Chicago Press, 2004. 

Art Intervention: San Precario, Patron 
Saint of Precarious Workers 

http://temporaryculture.wordpress. 

com/san-precario2/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Josh Bolotsky 
Andrew Boyd 


Things get done 
only when the task 
is clearly defined 
and on someone’s 
to-do list” 


One flaw of group work is that 
it’s easy to walk out of a meeting 
with no assigned tasks, think- 
ing “someone else is going to 
do that.” Obviously, if everyone 
thinks that, nothing gets done. 

Just because the group comes 
to consensus on the need for 
something to get done doesn’t 

mean anyone is necessarily going to do it. Things get done only 
when the task is clearly defined and on someone’s to-do list. 

This principle may sound simple and obvious, but you’d 
be shocked how often we forget it. 

Make sure every group meeting has a note-taker who 
records all tasks and who’s agreed to do them, and then emails 
or otherwise shares that task list with the whole group soon 
after the meeting (same day, if possible). To ensure effective 
follow-through, have people explicitly commit to their tasks 
in front of the group, and begin each meeting by reviewing 
the last meeting’s task list. 

Some responsibilities are limited to a single action item, 
such as, “reserve a room for next week’s meeting.” But other 
responsibilities — say, “organize a press conference” — often 
involve a whole complex of tasks and the contributions of a 
number of people over many days. That’s when you may need 
someone to “bottom-line.” A bottom-liner doesn’t do every- 
thing herself, but takes responsibility for ensuring everything 
gets done. If people on her team don’t come through, it’s her 
responsibility to find someone else, triage, or do it herself. It 
doesn’t ultimately matter how the job gets done, just that she 
is accountable to the larger group for ensuring that it does, or 
explaining why it didn’t. 

Proper delegation and sharing of tasks is also one of the 
best ways to prevent burn-out see PRINCIPLE: Pace yourself. 

Regardless of whether your group has a more vertical or 
horizontal leadership structure, delegation is key. Good lead- 
ers know how to delegate tasks, how to choose and support 
bottom-liners (some of the best people won’t step up unless 
they’re asked), and how to make sure everyone knows their 


PRINCIPLE: Delegate 



Related: 


role. Be explicit. People don’t want vague responsibilities. 
They want to know what their role is and why it’s important. 

Volunteer and grassroots groups often struggle with partic- 
ipants who commit to doing something but then never follow 
through. You have to factor that in upfront. Be careful when 
giving critical tasks to an untested volunteer. Here’s the stan- 
dard conversation one of the authors has with new volunteers: 


PRINCIPLES 

Beware the tyranny of 
structurelessness p. 102 
Don’t mistake your group 
for society p. 130 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
We are all leaders p. 202 


“Do you know the most important word in a volunteer’s 
vocabulary?” 

“Um, no.” 


THEORIES 

Dunbar's Number web 
Anarchism web 


“Exactly.” 

“Huh?” 


“‘No’ is the most important word you can say. Use it. A lot. 
If you say ‘yes I can do it’ out of guilt or an over-enthusiasm 
that you can’t follow through on, then we’re screwed. I’d much 
prefer a ‘No.’ Then we can assign the task to someone whose 
‘Yes’ means yes.” 

Far from being onerous, this is actually empowering — and 
honoring. You’re saying: your work is valuable enough that 
we need to have a solid commitment and the specifics nailed 
down. That’s a principle, by the way, that’s not just true for 
volunteers but for the whole team. 


PRINCIPLE: Delegate 


123 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Do the media’s work for them 


IN SUM 

Often journalists want to 
cover an important issue, but 
can’t for editorial reasons. The 
right creative action [that you 
photograph or film yourself] 
can give them the excuse 
or materials they need. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Don’t hate the media, 
become the media.” 

-Jello B infra 


PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 
Agit-Pop Communications 
Code Pink 
Greenpeace 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Salzman, Jason. Making the News: 
A Guide For Activists And Non- 
profits : Revised And Updated. 
U.S.A. Basic Books 2003 

National Media Conference 
for Progressives: 

http://www.truespinconference.com 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


124 


If you want media coverage of your event, give them a 
story they can’t refuse: one that makes your point very clearly, 
with great visuals, an unexpected twist or a lot of humor. If a 
journalist already wants to cover an issue, this assist will give 
them the excuse or extra ammunition they need to sell their 
editor on it. 

Don’t worry about squeezing all the relevant information 
into the stunt or hoax itself. If you can, great, but most of the key 
info can be conveyed via an accompanying press release. The 
action itself just needs to provide a hook or entry point by lifting 
the veil on a black-and-white situation and pointing out obvi- 
ous but seldom discussed truths. If your action does this well, 
journalists will enjoy writing about it and public opinion (along 
with a well-orchestrated activist campaign) can do the rest. 

When the Yes Men announced that the Chamber of 
Commerce was supporting climate change legislation, or that 
Dow was going to accept its responsibility for Bhopal, or that 
General Electric was giving back its $3.2 billion tax credit, 
these were just funny actions pointing to simple, undeniable 
realities: the Chamber was mad to not support climate-change 
legislation, Dow should clean up Bhopal, GE should pay its tax- 
es. Many journalists want to write about these obvious truths, 
but for editorial reasons, cannot. Creating a funny, spectacu- 
lar action that’s all about an issue allows them to cover it. 

Make the journalists’ job as simple as possible. Provide 
them with what they need: a concise press release, photo with 
clear permissions, or a good video news release, replete with 
the facts, figures and soundbites that illustrate your point. 

It’s imperative to document your action yourself and make 
your photos and footage available. The glitter-bombing of 
Newt Gingrich see: TACTIC: Creative Disruption wouldn’t have 
gone viral if there hadn’t been an accomplice videotaping it. 
When Brad Newsham organizes human banners, he hires a 
helicopter and professional photographer to fly overhead, 
then passes those photos to interested media outlets that 
couldn’t make it out there themselves. 

The stealthier the action, the more important it is to doc- 
ument it yourself. Nobody but the organizers of flash mobs 
or guerrilla musicals know when and where they’re going to 


PRINCIPLE: Do the media’s work for them 




Related: 

TACTICS 

Creative disruption p. 18 
Flash mob p. 46 
Hoax p. 54 
Human banner p. 56 

PRINCIPLES 

Keep it simple web 

Play to the audience that Isn't there p.160 
Make it funny web 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Team up with experts p. 184 

THEORIES 

The propaganda model p. 256 

CASE STUDIES 

Survive balls take the UN by storm web 
Public Option Annie p. 346 
Yes Men pose as Exxon web 
Dollar bills on stock exchange floor web 


Knowing their 1969 marriage would be widely publicised, John and Yoko decided to do the media's work for them. 
Spending their honeymoon in bed, talking about peace, they directed their own media event through their actions, 
words, and the signs they posted behind them: “ Hair peace, bed peace". 

occur, so you have to integrate photographers and videogra- 
phers into those actions. But afterwards, don’t just post your 
stuff on Flickr and YouTube and hope for the best. Instead, 
have a plan for getting those visuals out to the media. When 
Agit-Pop carried out the Public Option Annie guerrilla mu- 
sical, they did a lightning edit of their footage immediately 
after the action and got it out to key outlets within the day’s 
news cycle. MSNBC, CNN, and Comedy Central all built 
stories around the footage. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Many journalists will be loath to directly 
use footage that has a strong editorial slant, but it might still 
prompt them to do their own story. 


PRINCIPLE: Do the media’s work for them 


125 




/g\ PRINCIPLE : 

w Don’t dress like a protester 


IN SUM 

If you look like a stereotypical 
protester, it’s easy for people 
to write you off. If you look 
like someone who doesn’t 
usually hit the streets (the 
guy next door or an airline 
pilot in full uniform], people 
can more easily identify 
with you. Therefore, don’t 
dress like a protester. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Dress like a Republican so you 
can talk like an anarchist.” 

-Colman McCarthy 


PRACTITIONERS 

ArTmani 

Pret a Revolter - http://leodecerca. 
net/proyectos/pret-a-revolter/ 

Masquerade Project 
Billionaires for Bush 
Tute Bianche - http://en.wikipedia. 

org/wiki/Tute_ Bianche 

Ladies Against Women 
The Orange Alternative 
The Ya Basta Association 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Subversive Business Outfits 
as Tactical Camouflage : 

http://www.suitsforwallstreet.org/ 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


126 


People don’t care about protesters. Oh, there go those silly protesters 
again. What are they protesting this time'? Look: the police are hitting 
them over the head! Well, they must have done something to deserve it. 

It’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea. Based on what 
they see in the media, folks get a fairly fixed idea of what “pro- 
testers” look like — and the stereotype doesn’t usually lend 
itself to immediate sympathy for your cause. If you’re planning 
a mass street action and want to reach out to people who may 
not already agree with you, think about howyou can undermine 
their stereotypes about “protesters” see PRINCIPLE: Use others’ 
prejudices against them. Remember: protest is what you are doing ; 
it is not your identity see THEORY: Political identity paradox. 

If you want schoolteachers, seniors and office workers to 
get angry that a cop is hitting you over the head, dress like 
you’re on your way over to their house for Sunday dinner. 
Make it easy for them to imagine themselves, or their kids, in 
your position. 

Consider the aura conveyed by what you wear, whether 
that’s the civility and seriousness of civil rights marchers in 
suit and tie or the calculated absurdity of “Billionaires” in 
tuxedos. In all ten years that Billionaires for Bush see CASE 
protested in the streets, including in the midst of some run- 
ning street battles with police, never did a single one of us get 
arrested. It undoubtedly helped that most of us were white, but 
it also helped that most of us were wearing tuxedos. In New 
York, we had a one-liner: “New York’s Finest would never arrest 
New York’s finest dressed.” And it was true. They never did. 

Of course, the action you’re involved in may not afford 
the luxury of tuxedos, or generally leave you a lot of room 
to not dress like a protester. It may require protective gear: 
bandannas or gas masks to protect from tear gas; heavy cloth- 
ing or even shields to protect yourself from billy clubs and 
rubber bullets. Even then, creativity can show the human and 
beautiful side of dissent. At the Battle in Seattle, many block- 
ades were works of art, and many blockaders were creatively 
costumed. Or consider the Masquerade Project in New York, 
decorating gas masks with multicolored sequins and feathers, 
or the Tute Bianche in Italy or the Pret a Revolter collective 
in Spain, or the “Book Bloc” in the UK, all of which wore ere- 


PRINCIPLE: Don’t dress like a protester 



Related: 



TACTICS 

Mass street action p. 68 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Street theater web 

PRINCIPLES 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Consider your audience p.118 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Use others' prejudices against them p. 192 

THEORIES 

Political Identity Paradox p. 254 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 28 6 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Occupy Wall Street web 


Over 700 Continental and United pilots, demonstrate in front of the New York Stock Exchange, September, 2011. Their 
sharp pilot uniforms and military marching pattern are a far cry from the standard protester stereotype. 

ative yet protective protest gear into battle, thereby subverting 
the official media narrative that protesters are violent, scary 
and (worst of all!) humorless. 

Often the most effective protests are those that don’t look 
like protests. Perhaps to be effective — to quote a character 
in Peter Carey’s novel The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith — “you 
will have to make yourself into something beyond anyone’s 
capacity to imagine you.” 


PRINCIPLE: Don’t dress like a protester 


127 




on t just brainstorm, artstorm! 


IN SUM 

When seeking to awaken 
collective intelligence, 
brainstorming can only get you 
so far. “Artstorming” invites 
participants to jump directly 
into the unmediated experience 
of creation, engaging the 
full spectrum of our creative 
intelligence. Better ideas, and 
often amazing creations, result. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Often such little small cultural 
experiments open up space 
and possibility for the bigger 
changes to happen. The real 
seeds for revolutionary changes 
can grow in artistic practices.” 

-John Jordan 

PRACTITIONERS 

Art in Action 
Bread and Puppet Theater 
Practicing Freedom 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Bronson, Po, and Ashley 
M erryman, “Forget Brainstorming," 
Newsweek, July 12, 2010. 

Kevin Buckland, on line pamphlet, How to 
Organize an Art Build, 350.org, 

http://trb.la/xz4ITY 


“Artstorming 
creates space 
for the spatially, 
kinesthetically and 
musically gifted 
folks who might 
be alienated from a 
, , t . verbal brainstorm ” 

can reduce a group s creativity. 

So when collectively designing an arts action, instead of brain- 
storming, try artstorming! 

When artstorming, instead of a blank wall where people 
write up ideas from the group, everyone stands up and starts 
improvising together with all the tools at hand. Instead of 
theorizing about what would look or sound good, they try it out. 
It starts with physical movement (proven to enhance creative 
output), then some form of improvisation (word association, or 
improv theater games) which prepares the brain to take risks. 
Artstorming is useful because it: 


Brainstorm sessions should be 
a great way for groups to arrive 
at an idea that is better than an 
idea that an individual could 
have come up with alone, but 
they often don’t work that way. 
In a big group, the ideas of a 
few people who feel confident 
enough to share their half- 
baked musings tend to drown 
out the rest. Yale researchers 
actually found that brainstorming 


Makes space for multiple intelligences and fluencies: Art- 
storming creates space for the spatially, kinesthetically 
and musically gifted folks who might be alienated from a 
verbal brainstorm. 


Invites people to be fully present: By engaging the full spec- 
trum of our creative intelligence, artstorming taps into 
parts of us that might be snoozing most of the time. These 
parts will be badly needed in an arts action. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Levana Saxon 


Supports creativity: In an artstorm, people’s honest 
expression of the feelings and ideas that brought the group 
together in the hrst place are safe to come out and play, so 
more expression happens. 


PRINCIPLE: Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! 



Is anti-capitalist: That’s right. Hakim Bey asserts that 
under capitalism we have become increasingly alienated 
from our direct experiences with each other and with our 
art. Artstorming is an opportunity to reconnect with our- 
selves, our art, and each other. 

To design an artstorm, begin with the simple question, 
“What art could we use to effectively tell X message to Y audi- 
ence to achieve Z result?” (X, Y and Z are figured out prior). 
Use a brainstorm (not all brainstorms are bad) to list all of 
the different art media possible, including both visual and 
performance arts. Next, break up the room into groups that 
will artstorm using one to three media of their choice to 
develop their message. After ten minutes, have each group 
report back and give each other feedback so each can arrive 
at a focus for the next stage. Allow people to switch groups at 
this time if they’d like. Now the real artstorm begins, focusing 
on a single idea from the first round with a group of people 
who all want to make it happen. Invite people to take turns 
experimenting, with minimal verbal feedback. Eventually, 
groups will hit on an idea that works and morph into a group- 
led process of artistic co-creation. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Forum theater p. 48 
Image theater p. 62 

PRINCIPLES 

Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Don't confuse your strat- 
egy and your tactic web 
Balance art and message p. 100 

THEORIES 

Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) p. 270 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Some people may find an artstorm terrifying. 
Don’t force people to do it or assume everyone is comfort- 
able working this way. For those who declare discomfort with 
spontaneous creative work, give them a different role: say, 
offering verbal feedback to ensure that the groups are staying 
on-message. 


PRINCIPLE: Don’t just brainstorm, artstorm! 



PRINCIPLE : 


on t mistake your group 
for society 


IN SUM 

Don’t get too caught up in 
trying to make your little 
activist group “inclusive,” 
“democratic,” or other 
qualities that we all want 
for society. Why? Because 
your group isn’t society. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 
Earth First! 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


“To operate 
effectively, a small 
group may need 
to operate like 
an army battalion 
or the crew of a 
sailboat, with 
clear divisions 
of roles and 
responsibilities.” 


Sure, we should all try to be 
the change we want to see in 
the world see: PRINCIPLE. We 

should also think hard about 
who we are, what we’re fight- 
ing for and why we’re fighting 
for it. We should mull over the 
future society we want and how 
we can best model it in the here 
and now. We should even read 
books about it. But no matter 
how much we get absorbed 
in thinking about society, we 
should never mistake our activ- 
ist groups for society. 

For example, we want soci- 
ety to be democratic, but our bands cannot be models of the 
sort of democracy we’re fighting for. Like families and rebel 
units, affinity groups aren’t models for how society should be. 
Even a well-functioning, happy group may have unelected 
leaders. Decisions may be taken without fully consulting all 
members — or even any members. These would be odious 
practices if extended to society as a whole, but can be perfect- 
ly acceptable in a small group, where formal mechanisms are 
unnecessary because all members share a basic level of trust. 

We obviously don’t want society to be a place where everyone 
must fulfill their duty punctually and without complaint; we 
want real freedom, which is why turbo-capitalism is anathema 
to many of us. Yet to operate effectively, a small group may 
need to operate like an army battalion, or, more poeti- 
cally, like the crew of a sailboat, with clear divisions of roles 
and responsibilities. And there may be dictators: while 
one or two people can’t usually do all the work, it may 
be that one or two people must make all the decisions, 
especially in the heat of action, so that things happen quickly. 

If you’re in a group that works, at some point you 
may figure out the hidden interpersonal rules that en- 


PRINCIPLE: Don’t mistake your group for society 



Related: 


able the whole thing to crank along. Don’t be appalled 
when you do. Those rules probably have nothing to do 
with democratic principles or consensus, but are based 
on intuitive navigation of face-to-face relationships. 
Often, whoever has the most energy simply makes things hap- 
pen, and ends up making most of the decisions. Even when 
the starting model is consensus, the formal consensus process 
often gets jettisoned and the active members simply coordi- 
nate informally to get it all done. Why not take a shortcut and 
skip the formal consensus step, period? 

If your group was working well and then ceases to, could 
it be that you’ve complicated the decision making process 
through “openness,” and, to put it brutally, the wrong people 
have taken control? 


HOW THE OPPOSITE IS EQUALLY TRUE: This is a case in which the 
opposite is often equally true, especially in larger groups ! See 
almost any of the related principles. 


PRINCIPLES 

Consensus is a means, not an end p. 116 

\Ne are all leaders p. 202 

Enable, don't command p. 132 

Delegate p. 122 

Beware the tyranny of 

structurelessness p. 102 

Challenge patriarchy as 

you organize p. 108 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

Be the change you want to see web 

Be an ethical prankster web 

CASE STUDIES 

New York Times “Special Edition" web 
Billionaires for Bush p. 29 6 


PRINCIPLE: Don't mistake your group for society 


131 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Enable, don’t command 


IN SUM 

Supportive, enabling 
leaders awaken the creative 
potential of participants. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Leaders who do not act 
dialogically, but insist on 
imposing their decisions, do 
not organize the people - 
they manipulate them. They 
do not liberate, nor are they 
liberated: they oppress.” 

- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 


PRACTITIONERS 

Lysistrata Project 
Transition Towns 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Kathryn Blume 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Distributed action p. 36 
Carnival protest web 

PRINCIPLES 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 
This ain’t the Sistene Chapel p. 188 
Delegate p. 122 
Create levels of participation web 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORIES 

Temporary Autonomous Zone [TAZ] p. 270 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 


“The value of 
the ‘supportive, 
enabling leader ’ 
approach is 
that it unlocks 
the creativity, 
ingenuity, and 
innovation of 
everyone involved 
in the project 
or cause. ” 

al structure with a compelling, 

inspiring vision, and then spend his/her time encouraging 
others to participate and assisting them in maximizing their 
creative contributions. 

The value of the “supportive, enabling leader” approach is 
that it unlocks the creativity, ingenuity, and innovation of every- 
one involved in the project or cause. Participants are inspired to 
engage because of the positive vision, and then encouraged to 
learn new skills, take on new challenges, and become supportive, 
enabling leaders in their own right. The long-term success of 
the project or cause isn’t dependent on one person’s energy and 
presence. Rather, it’s a combination of the beautiful juiciness 
of the vision and the creative synergy of large numbers of 
people working together to realize that vision. 


There’s one style of leadership 
in which a charismatic, com- 
manding leader serves as the 
public face of a project, sets up 
a vertical organizational struc- 
ture, and then brings a whole 
lot of people along for the ride. 
The job of everyone else is to 
serve, support, and follow the 
commands of the charismatic, 
commanding leader. It’s a very 
top-down approach. 

Conversely, there’s a style of 
leadership which is far more 
bottom-up, in which the job of 
the supportive, enabling leader 
is to set up a lateral organization- 


132 


CASE STUDIES 

Lysistrata Project p. 330 


PRINCIPLE: Enable, don’t command 



NOT ONLY MUST 

great ideas have 


THEY MUST ALSO HAVE 

LANDING GEARS 


— Unknown 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Escalate strategically 


IN SUM 

If dissident political groups 
tend to become more extreme 
over time, then good leaders 
should help define what 
‘extreme’ in constructive 
ways looks like. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Earth First! 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Canvas Core Curriculum: A Guide to Effective 
Nonviolent Action, available on line: 

http://trb.la/yTS9mF 

Helvey, Robert L. On Strategic Nonviolent 
Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamentals. 
Boston:The Albert Einstein Institution, 
2004. Avail on line: 

http://trb.la/wrZOtw 

Beyond the Choir, “Activists 
Caught in the Filter Bubble" 

http://trb.la/AasOwe 

Beyond the Choir, “What Prevents 
Radicals from Acting Strategically? 

[Part 2: Encapsulation )" 

http://trb.la/wDgKch 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 



John Lewis and Jim Zwerg of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee after being beaten during the Freedom 
Rides. Photo of a museum exhibit. 

There is a tendency within highly cohesive political groups to 
want to turn up the heat. It seems to be written into the social 
DNA of oppositional political groups: when group members’ 
level of commitment increases, they want to go further. They want 
to be a little more hardcore. This tendency toward escalation 
and increased militancy can be a good thing — but not inevi- 
tably. It all depends on how hardcore is defined within the cul- 
ture of the group. It can either move a cause forward — or send 
it into a dangerous or dysfunctional downward spiral. 

Compare the trajectories of Students for a Democratic So- 
ciety (SDS) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Com- 
mittee (SNCC) — two of the most important radical youth 
organizations of the 1960s. Students for a Democratic Society 
imploded in 1969 and the Weather Underground was born be- 
cause some leaders succeeded in defining hardcore to mean 
immediate armed guerrilla struggle against the U.S. government — an 
absurd prospect for their context. In the case of the Student 
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), on the other 
hand, some very astute leaders defined hardcore to mean acts 
such as going into the most segregated areas in the south and 


134 


PRINCIPLE: Escalate strategically 



organizing some of the poor- 
est, least educated, and most 
disenfranchised people in the 
entire country. SNCC engaged 
in other more visible “hardcore” 
tactics as well. 

In both cases, hardcore 
really was HARDCORE. (You 
can’t satiate the desire for 
hardcore with anything less!) 

Members of both groups dem- 
onstrated overwhelming levels 
of commitment to the values of 
the groups they belonged to. Members of both groups risked 
their lives, were imprisoned and brutalized, and some lost 
their lives. But hardcore was defined strategically in the case of 
SNCC, and tragically in the case of the Weather Underground. 

Good leaders anticipate the emergent desire for hardcore — 
for escalation — and they own it. They model it themselves. And 
they make sure that the expression of hardcore is designed to 
strengthen bonds between the group’s core members and its 
broader political base. It should feel hardcore to the participants, 
and it should look like moral leadership to the political base and to 
a broader public. 


a tendency 
toward increased 
militancy ... can 
either move a cause 
forward or send 
it in a dangerous 
and dysfunctional 
direction.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 

Blockade p. 14 

General strike p. 50 

Strategic nonviolence p. 88 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 

Creative distribution p. 18 

PRINCIPLES 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel 
support your strategy p. 13 6 
Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Consider your audience p . 118 
Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 
Anger works best when you have 
the moral highground p. 96 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORIES 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Points of intervention p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 

Citizens' Posse p. 300 
Battle in Seattle p. 286 
The salt march p. 354 
Tar sands action p. 376 


PRINCIPLE: Escalate strategically 


IWCII’LE : 

veryone 



balls/ovaries of steel 


IN SUM 

Courage is in the eye 
of the beholder. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Abbie Hoffman 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


“What the Yes 
Men have, which 
is mistaken for 
courage, is a need 
to follow through on 
crazy ideas (single- 
mindedness), and 
an ability to goad 
each other on to do 
so (peer pressure).” 

the contexts in which the Yes 

Men operate are entirely without threat, populated mainly by 
timid, polite men in suits who would never endanger their rep- 
utation by hitting someone. 

What the Yes Men have, which is mistaken for courage, is 
a need to follow through on crazy ideas (single-mindedness), 
and an ability to goad each other on to do so (peer pressure) . 
Really, this formula can be reproduced by anyone. 


Many people over the years 
have said to the Yes Men (and 
many other activists) that they 
have “balls of steel,” an impolite 
way of saying that they are cou- 
rageous. This is simply not so. 

Watch any pre-conference 
moment of The Yes Men Fix the 
World and you will see a great 
deal of nervousness. It has even 
been said that Andy is a good 
bit more nervous than the aver- 
age bear. “He’s a real nervous 
nellie,” says longtime friend-of- 
Andy, Joseph R. Wolin. This is 
even more remarkable because 


PRINCIPLE: Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel 


LIVE 


Related: 



WORLD BHOPAL LEGACY 

Dow accepts full responsibility 


Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men appears live from the BBC Paris studio on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster. 
Posing as a representative of Dow, he announced his corporation would take full responsibility and compensate the 
victims. This news story, and the later retraction, remained the top news story on Google that day. 


TACTICS 

Banner hang p. 12 
Infiltration p. 64 
Identity correction p. 60 
Creative disruption p. 18 

PRINCIPLES 

Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Dow Chemical apologizes 
for Bhopal p. 318 
Bidder 70 p. 290 


PRINCIPLE: Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel 


137 



gN PRINCIPLE : 

®Mf protest is made illegal, make 
daily life a protest 


IN SUM 

When standard dissent is made 
impossible by overwhelming 
state repression, find ways to 
make ordinary acts subversive. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Orange Alternative 
Dance Liberation Front 
SNCC 
Otpor! 
ACT UP 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

T.V. Reed. The Art of Protest: Culture 
and Activism from the Civil Rights 
Movement to the Streets of Seattle. 
University of Minnesota Press, 2005. 

Lester Kurtz. “Chile: Struggle Against 
A Military Dictator" . 2009. 

http://trb.ia/zdrpXO 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


In July 2011, public frustration in Belarus over a deepening 
economic crisis reached a boiling point. The authoritarian 
regime of President Alexander Lukashenko had outlawed any 
political protest, and police were cracking down on any vocal 
expression of dissent. In response, organizers calling them- 
selves “Revolution Through Social Networks” began calling on 
people to gather in public and clap their hands, or set their 
cell phones to ring all at once, thereby turning these simple 
everyday actions into profound public expressions of dissent. 

As the non-protests spread, the police cracked down hard. 
The regime rightly recognized that the clapping was serving 
to undermine their authority. If they did nothing and contin- 
ued to allow people to gather and clap without punishment, 
then the population could openly oppose the regime in other 
ways. Instead, the world saw the absurd sight of large num- 
bers of Belarus citizens arrested for clapping. The crackdown 
exposed the government’s deep irrationality, a perception 
only strengthened when it submitted to Parliament a bill to 
make “the organized inaction” of silent protesters illegal. 

Many years earlier, in 1983, organized labor in Chile 
planned to kick off new resistance to the ten-year-old Pino- 
chet dictatorship with a massive strike in the copper mines, 
the backbone of Chile’s economy. Before the strike could 
occur, the mines were surrounded by the military and it 
seemed a bloodbath was certain to follow if the miners went 
through with this plan. Instead, the leadership brilliantly 
switched gears to a National Day of Protest made of decen- 
tralized actions, calling on those who supported them to 
drive slowly, turn their lights on and off at night, and at 8 pm 
to bang pots and pans. Many participated, and these mini- 
protests helped to rebuild the confidence of the brutalized 
opposition movement as people overcame their fear of acting. 

As both of these actions dramatize, when mass gather- 
ings and public protests become too dangerous, everyday 
actions can be used to signal dissent, gather crowds, get 
the word out, illustrate the ridiculous nature of repressive 
authority, and set up decision dilemmas, all the while avoiding 


138 


PRINCIPLE: If protest is made illegal, make daily life a protest 


or deferring violent repression see PRINCIPLE: Put your target 
in a decision dilemma. 

This principle doesn’t only apply to repressive third-world 
dictatorships, but to situations in supposedly more open 
societies where daily life has been criminalized for certain 
segments of the population. Think of the two queer women 
who kissed in front of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City 
until they were hurriedly pushed off the grounds by security. 
Or the Dance Liberation Front, which organized dances in 
the streets and unlicensed spaces of Giuliani’s New York to 
flout repressive 1920s era “cabaret laws” still on the books. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: When it’s time to escalate, don’t miss the 
boat. From the beginning, it is important to have a strategic 
trajectory in mind for your campaign: focus on activities that 
build toward bigger and bolder actions. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Invisible theater p. 66 

PRINCIPLES 

Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 1 66 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Anyone can act p. 98 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 

THEORIES 

Hamoq & Hamas p. 236 

Action logic p. 208 

Points of intervention p. 250 

Pillars of support p.248 

Temporary Autonomous Zone [TAZ] p. 270 

CASE STUDIES 

Trail of Dreams p. 384 
The salt march p. 354 
Occupy Wall Street web 


PRINCIPLE: If protest is made illegal, make daily life a protest 


139 


/g\ PRINCIPLE : 

wKill them with kindness 


IN SUM 

Kindness, smiles, gifts 
and unicorns [well, maybe 
not unicorns] can be potent 
weapons in the struggle 
against evil-doers. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Above all, be kind.” 

-Kurt Vonnegut 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “Auctioneer: Stop All 
the Sales Right Now!'' 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=u3X89iViAlw 

Occupy the Boardroom 

http://www.occupytheboardroom.org/ 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


140 


There’s a time to be angry see PRINCIPLE: Anger works best when 
you have the moral high ground. There’s a time to be reverent see 
PRINCIPLE: Use the power of ritual. There’s a time to be funny see 
PRINCIPLE: Make it funny. And there’s also a time to be sweet, 
charming and generous. In fact, that time is often. 

A 2011 foreclosure auction in Brooklyn, U.S.A., for instance, 
was movingly disrupted by protesters breaking into song. The 
song wasn’t angry, it wasn’t agitated; it was sweet, beautiful, 
compassionate — even toward the auctioneer. That’s what 
made it so powerful: the protesters were grounded and deter- 
mined. They kept singing their sweet song even as the cops led 
them away. 

When you lead with kind- 
ness, you’re more likely to be seen 
as the sympathetic character 
in the story see PRINCIPLE: Lead 
with sympathetic characters. You’ve 
come in good faith. You’re try- 
ing to make things better. You 
come with smiles, gifts and an 
open heart, and you are met 
with stony-faced indifference, 
scorn or abuse. In the eyes of 
the public and the media, you are the good guys. You are the 
reasonable ones. This is not only good tactics, it’s an assertion 
of your basic humanity against unjust and inhuman structures. 

Just think of the iconic ’60s moment: the anti-war protester 
putting a flower in the soldier’s gun-barrel. Or more recently, 
the “99%ers” from Occupy the Boardroom who set up online 
“pen pal” relationships with the country’s top bankers. When 
they were stopped by security from delivering their heartfelt 
stories in person, they folded up their letters into paper air- 
planes and sailed them over the heads of the cops toward the 
bank HQ. For some, cars parked in bike lanes would be rea- 
son enough to slash some tires, but not for the Bike Tane Lib- 
eration Clowns, who instead will approach drivers and kindly 
implore them to leave. Those who remain are given fake “this 
could have been a real ticket” tickets warning them they’re in 
violation of NYC parking rules. 


“It’s a core element 
of nonviolent 
philosophy to 
recognize the 
humanity in 
everyone and seek 
to connect with it” 


PRINCIPLE: Kill them with kindness 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Creative petition delivery p. 22 
Artistic vigil p. 10 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Advanced leafletting p. 8 

PRINCIPLES 

Anger works best when you have 

the moral highground p. 96 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

Make it funny web 

Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Hope is a muscle web 

Think narratively p. 186 


Bogota, Colombia: A demonstrator embraces a riot police officer during a student protest against government plans to 
reform higher education. When our opponents' aggression is met with kindness, aggressors and observers alike are 
forced to look at their actions critically. Photo by William Fernando M artinez/AP. 


THEORIES 

Hamoq & Hamas p. 236 


It’s naive to think that power will change its ways because of 
a sweet appeal or a considerate gesture or a paper airplane. But 
at the same time, it’s a core element of nonviolent philosophy to 
recognize the humanity in everyone and seek to connect with 
it. The more we humanize politics, the more likely we are to 
win. The bureaucrat who secretly agrees with you is more like- 
ly to quit, and lend his skills to the revolution. The cop who’s 
been given cupcakes and coffee by a Granny Against the War is 
that much closer to refusing an order to pepper spray a group 
of college students linking arms. The foreclosure auctioneer, 
touched by song, isn’t going to slam that gavel down quite so 
hard the next time. And the public, witnessing all of these ac- 
tions, is more likely to be moved to action themselves. All of 
these things don’t interrupt the workings of power on their 
own, but at a human level they matter, and over time they add 
up, sowing seeds of beautiful trouble, and creating allies in the 
most unexpected places. 


CASE STUDIES 

Occupy The Boardroom web 
Small gifts p. 360 
Teddy bear catapult p.380 
Trail of Dreams p. 384 
Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 


PRINCIPLE: Kill them with kindness 


141 




PRINCIPLE : 

w Know your cultural terrain 


(and use it to your advantage] 


IN SUM 

The first rule of guerrilla 
warfare is to know your terrain 
and use it to your advantage. 

This holds true whether 
you are fighting in an actual 
jungle or in the metaphoric 
wasteland of mass culture. 

EPIGRAPH 

“What the world’s governments 
should really fear is an expert 
in communication technologies.” 

-Subcomandante Marcos 

PRACTITIONERS 

Center for Tactical Magic 
Robbie Conal 
El Teatro Campesino 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Duncombe, Stephen. Cultural 
Resistance Reader. London: Verso, 2002. 

Duncombe, Stephen. Dream. New 
York: The New Press, 2007. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Stephen Duncombe 


142 


Those of us engaged in creative activism need to be able 
to navigate the broader cultural landscape in which we 
wage our campaigns, and use it to our advantage. In the 
twenty-first century, this terrain includes viral video sen- 
sations, Twitter hashtags, guerrilla advertising, celebrity 
gossip, sports spectacles, religious iconography, and other 
cultural detritus. 

But how is an activist supposed to survive, much less 
thrive, in a cultural environment created expressly for the 
purposes of commodifying everything of value or fostering 
obedience to authority? 

All cultural artifacts contain contradictions. Marketing 
campaigns, for instance, are developed to exploit emotion in 
order to sell product, but to do this they need to tap into the 
deep-seated dreams and nightmares of large numbers of peo- 
ple. Sometimes these desires are scary and reactionary (brush 
with Pepsodent or you will die a spinster) , but they also tap into 
positive, often Utopian dreams (drink this beer and you will be 
surrounded by a beloved, albeit tipsy, community) . 

Or consider religion: progressive activists often think of 
religion as an institution designed to enforce the status quo. 
There’s certainly much to condemn in religion, but it’s also a 
system of ethics and a code of 
behavior that can be used to All cultural 

critique the norms and ide- mtltflin 

als of consumer capitalism. UrUTULLS CUiilUfii 

The world’s great religions ex- contradictions.” 

tol such virtues as love, com- 
munity and responsibility for others — surely good material 
for an astute organizer to work with. Moses was a spectacu- 
lar leader, Mohammed a master poet, and Jesus, chasing the 
money-changers out of the Temple and spinning engaging 
parables, was a crackerjack creative activist. 

In 1906, the great philosopher, psychologist and pacifist 
William James told a group of American students that if they 
wanted to reach a wider public with their pacifist message, 
they needed to understand that war, no matter how bloody 


PRINCIPLE: Know your cultural terrain 


Related: 



Design: Andy Menconi. 

and barbaric, also tapped into worthy sentiments like honor 
and sacrifice, and that these values needed to first be recog- 
nized and then redirected. Instead of rejecting war outright, 
he concluded, the activists needed to articulate a “moral 
equivalent of war” to take its place in the culture’s value sys- 
tem. The trick, according to James’ insight, is to tap into 
what’s potentially positive in the surrounding culture and 
then redirect those dreams, desires, images and impulses 


TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Flash mob p. 46 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Trek p. 90 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Brand or be branded p. 104 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 

Balance art and message p. 100 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Show, don't tell p.174 

Think narratively p. 18 6 

Bring the issue home p. 10 6 

Make it funny web 

Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Political identity paradox p. 254 
Memes p. 242 
The social cure p. 264 
Hashtag politics p. 238 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 

CASE STUDIES 

Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 

Yomango p.400 

Harry Potter Alliance p. 322 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 

The Big Donor Show p. 294 

The Couple in the Cage p. 312 


PRINCIPLE: Know your cultural terrain 


143 





into more progressive and creative social ends. 

Today’s cultural terrain is multilayered and extremely 
varied. Unlike the guerrilla in the jungle, who pretty much 
only needs to know his own local terrain, we twenty-first 
century cultural guerrillas need to range far and wide. You 
may not like or be familiar with Nascar, professional sports, 
reality TV and superheroes, but they are all fertile arenas of 
culture to work with. It may take an open mind and a bit of 
personal courage, but it behooves us to immerse ourselves 
in, learn about and respect the world of the cultural “Other” 
— which, for many of us counter-culture types, ironically, is 
mass culture. 



In 2003 activists from Katuah Earth First! in Knoxville, TN won popular support and massive media coverage for their 
anti-war action by tapping into the popular narrative of the Lord of the Rings movies 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: The mass culture we seek to appropriate 
and repurpose is often rooted in deeply regressive ideas and 
ideologies. Use it carefully and creatively, or its original pur- 
pose might prevail. 


144 


PRINCIPLE: Know your cultural terrain 




OF ANYTHING IT IS LIKELY TO BE 

my good behavior. 


-Henry David Thoreau 


XfiN PRINCIPLE : 

w Lead with 


IN SUM 

Good actions tell a good story; 
good stories revolve around 
sympathetic characters. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Cindy Sheehan 
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 
Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAP D] 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

smartMeme, “Resources" 
http://smartmeme.org/section.php?id=86 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Doyle Canning 
Patrick Reinsborough 


146 


sympathetic characters 

Assembling a compelling cast of characters is a critical strategic 
consideration for any action designer. Actions tend to be strong 
on identifying and vilifying the antagonists of the narrative, but 
an audience will care much more about injustice if they can 
relate to the people who are being affected. Successful actions 
are often those that present strong protagonists and other sym- 
pathetic characters. 

The role of the messenger who delivers the story of an 
action is key. Messengers embody the message by putting a 
human face on conflict and placing the action within a larger 
context. Those most impacted by the issue tend to make for 
more sympathetic and compelling messengers. For instance, if 
the action is about farm workers, it can be more effective to 
amplify the voices of a small group of farm workers who are 
taking action than to have a larger group of non-farm work- 
ers to speak up on their behalf. (Of course, solidarity actions 
certainly have their place: see CASE: Taco Bell boycott.) 

Power holders understand the importance of deploying 
sympathetic characters. For instance, welfare cuts get present- 
ed as benefiting working mothers, or corporate tax cuts sold 
as job-creation tools to help the unemployed. Time and again, 
the powerful play one group of sympathetic characters off an- 
other, or argue with Orwellian duplicity that the victims of a 
policy will actually benefit from it. 

In these cases, a campaign becomes a contest over who gets 
to speak for those suffering. With whom do we sympathize, and 
are those characters actually given space to speak for them- 
selves? A showdown results between messengers jockeying to 
represent themselves as the authentic representatives of the 
impacted constituencies. 

In recent years, we have seen several uprisings against 
repressive governments framed explicitly around sympathetic 
characters. In Myanmar, monks became the new face of the 
pro-democracy movement, replacing the students of the 1988 
mobilizations as the primary messengers. Obviously, many 
factions of society supported the movement, but with the monks 
at the front of the marches it was clear that the pro-democracy 
movement spoke for the conscience of the nation. Similarly, in 
Pakistan lawyers became the face of the fight against govern- 


PRINCIPLE: Lead with sympathetic characters 


ment impunity. Who better to embody the message of a need 
to respect the rule of law than lawyers? 

It’s important to ensure that the faces of the action are not 
just representative of the relevant impacted community, but 
also are easily recognizable to outsiders as key characters in 
the story. This can come down to the crude but important dy- 
namics of costuming: a single religious leader wearing religious 
sacraments will communicate that people of faith are involved 
in the action better than twenty religious leaders wearingjeans 
and sweatshirts see PRINCIPLE: Don’t dress like a protester. 



Indigenous Ecuadorean leader Emergildo Criollo travels from Amazon rainforest to California to deliver 325,000+ 
letters urging Chevron CEO John Watson to clean up the oil giant's toxic legacy. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh / Rainfor- 
est Action Network. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: The dynamics of who gets to speak, how 
the characters are portrayed, and who is cast as the heroes, 
victims, and villains, are deeply entwined in the dynamics of 
power and privilege. Activists should take care not to play into 
narratives of victimization that plague marginalized communi- 
ties. Navigating these dynamics skillfully and authentically is 
essential to successful actions and campaigns. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Artistic vigil p. 10 
Identity correction p. 60 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Eviction blockade p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

Think narratively p. 18 6 

Stay on message p. 178 

Don't dress like a protester p. 126 

Put movies in the hands of 

movements p. 164 

Reframe p. 168 

Bring the issue home p. 10 6 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 154 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 

The propaganda model p. 2 56 

Expressive and instrumental actions p. 232 

The social cure p. 264 

Floating signifier p. 234 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 

Whose tea party? p. 392 

Trail of Dreams p. 384 

Modern Day Slavery Museum p. 338 

Daycare center sit-in p. 316 


PRINCIPLE: Lead with sympathetic characters 



aintain nonviolent discipline 


IN SUM 

Nonviolent action works best 
when you stay nonviolent. 

EPIGRAPH 

“We must forever conduct our 
struggle on the high plane of 
dignity and discipline. We must 
not allow our creative 
protests to degenerate into 
physical violence. Again and 
again we must rise to the 
majestic heights of meeting 
physical force with soul force.” 

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Jesus of Nazareth 
Gandhi 

Civil Rights Movement 
Otpor 
Greenpeace 
Peaceful Uprising 
Gene Sharpe 
The Ya Basta Association 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Erica Chenoweth and Maria 
Stephan, Why Civil Resistance 
Works (Columbia UP, 2011], 

Hardy Merriman, “The Trifecta of Civil 
Resistance: Unity, Planning, Discipline." 

http://trb.la/A0H8NI 


It’s amazing to think that unarmed masses of people have 
defeated armed-to-the-teeth forces using humble techniques 
as strikes, occupations, boycotts and sit-ins. One way of un- 
derstanding why this can happen is that nonviolent methods 
put the oppressor in a decision dilemma: either rain pain on 
a bunch of unarmed resisters, or capitulate. The former can 
turn public opinion toward the protesters and undermine the 
legitimacy upon which the oppressor’s power rests. If the resis- 
tance persists, escalating crackdowns can start to backfire, even 
to the point that the police or military refuse to participate. 
Eventually the sovereign has no choice but to capitulate. 



By maintaining nonviolent discipline in the face of police dogs, this civil rights demonstrator in Birmingham, Alabama, 
put his oppressor in a decision dilemma, May 3, 1963. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nathan Schneider 


This basic logic frays, however, as soon as the resisters start 
meeting violence with violence. If the opponent succeeds in 
portraying resisters as a threat to peace and order, it escapes 
the decision dilemma, reasserting its legitimacy by playing 
the part of protector, of securer, of stabilizer. Unless you can 
scrounge up enough guns to match the military’s firepower, 
your movement is toast. 


PRINCIPLE: Maintain nonviolent discipline 



Political scientist Erica Chenoweth and sociologist Kurt 
Schock examined the data of past resistance movements and 

found that having an armed flank dramatically reduces the 
ability of an uprising to attract widespread participation. Most 
people aren’t interested in get- 
ting martyred in a hrehght, so 
they’ll stay home. Rather than 
merely representing one wing 
of a “diversity of tactics,” there- 
fore, undisciplined violence in 
a movement tends to lessen the 
effectiveness of nonviolent mass 
movements see: TACTIC: Strategic 
nonviolence. That’s why oppres- 
sors love to insert provocateurs 
into resistance movements to 
push them into violence and 
then discredit them. 

Many people keep nonviolent discipline for mainly strategic 
reasons: they do it because it’s effective, rather than as a mat- 
ter of principle. In practice, though, maintaining nonviolent 
discipline in the face of provocation can be difficult if you don’t 
consider it at least partly as an end in itself. Fortunately, almost 
everybody aspires to build the least violent society possible. To 
the extent that we build our movements as models of the world 
we’d like to see, nonviolent discipline should come naturally. 

The practice of maintaining nonviolent discipline should 
never be confused with passivity or acquiescence in the face 
of injustice. 


Nonviolent 
methods put the 
oppressor in a 
decision dilemma: 
either rain down 
pain on a bunch of 
unarmed resisters , 
or capitulate." 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: When a given nonviolent tactic doesn’t 
work, it’s tempting to conclude that nonviolence has failed and 
the only recourse is violence. That’s incredibly hasty. There 
is an enormous range of nonviolent tactics — Gene Sharp 
famously listed 198 of them, 1 and that’s just for starters — vary- 
ing from purely symbolic acts to direct action designed to dis- 
rupt the smooth operation of oppressive systems. There is no 
one-tactic-hts-all solution: when one nonviolent tactic isn’t do- 
ing the trick, try another, or more than one at once! 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Blockade p. 14 
Mass Street Action p. 68 
Occupation p. 78 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
General Strike p. 50 
Trek p. 90 

Eviction blockade p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Put your target in a decision 
dilemma p. 16 6 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
If protest is made illegal, make 
daily life a protest p. 138 
Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 

THEORIES 

Pillars of support p. 238 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 

CASE STUDIES 

The salt march p. 354 
Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Justice for Janitors p. 326 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel 
Clown Army p. 304 
Tar sands action p. 376 


1 Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vols 1-3 (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973], http://aeinstein. 
org/organizations/org/198 methods.pdf 


PRINCIPLE: Maintain nonviolent discipline 



ake new folks welcome 


IN SUM 

Recruitment and retention go 
hand in hand. A few simple 
procedures for orienting 
new participants can go a 
long way to ensuring their 
ongoing involvement. 

EPIGRAPH 

“You are invited. By anyone, to 
do anything. You are invited, 
for all time. You are so needed, 
by everyone, to do everything. 
You are invited, for all time.” 

-The Dismemberment Plan, 
You Are Invited 

PRACTITIONERS 

Iraq Veterans Against the War 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker, “Three 
Tips for Plugging People In," Beyond 
the Choir, February 28, 2011 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 


Bringing in new participants is essential to any activist group 
that wants to grow in size and capacity — but recruiting is 
only the first step. Integrating people into an established 
group can be a much bigger challenge, and it helps to be in- 
tentional about it. Getting good at involving people requires 
some deliberate attention and probably the establishment of 
some basic procedures to make new folks welcome. 

For starters, when someone says they’re interested in hnd- 
ing out more or getting involved in your group, don’t just 
invite them to come to your next meeting and leave it at that. 
Even the most welcoming and inclusive groups tend to devel- 
op their own meeting culture 
that can unintentionally make 
new folks feel like outsiders. 

To increase your new member 
retention rates, schedule one- 
on-one intake interviews with 
new folks before they come to 
a group meeting. Get to know 
the person. Find out what 
attracted them to the group, 
what kinds of tasks they enjoy 
or are good at, and how much 
time they have. Then tell them 
more about the group and dis- 
cuss what their involvement 
could look like. While this level of orientation requires more 
time up front, it saves time in the long run: people tend to 
plug into the work faster and stick around longer. It may make 
sense for one or two members of your group to take on this 
responsibility as an ongoing role. 

Secondly, if you want to inspire people to stay involved, 
you need to make them feel valued and appreciated. People 
like to be around people who treat them well. Most of us have 
no shortage of things we can do with a finite amount of free 
time: if you expect people to prioritize your group over ai- 
kido classes, contra dancing or advanced origami, you gotta 
treat ‘em right. Notice and acknowledge new folks’ contribu- 
tions, however small. Make time to check in with them outside 


“Even the most 
welcoming and 
inclusive groups 
tend to develop 
their own meeting 
culture that can 
unintentionally 
make new folks 
feel like outsiders ” 


PRINCIPLE: Make new folks welcome 


Related: 



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■Declaration of Interdependence 

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PRINCIPLES 

Don't mistake your group for society p. 130 

Enable, don't command p. 132 

We are all leaders p. 202 

Challenge patriarchy as 

you organize p. 108 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

THEORIES 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
Anti-oppression p. 212 

CASE STUDIES 

Lysistrata project p. 330 


Even a toddler can hold a petition on the back of a truck. Get people involved at their level. (Protesting the nuclear 
arms race in San Francisco, California in 1960. Photo by Pip R. Lagenta/Flickr .) 

of meetings. Ask their opinions often: What did they think 
about the meeting? the event? the action? Bounce your ideas 
off of them and ask for their feedback. 


PRINCIPLE: Make new folks welcome 


/gs PRINCIPLE : 

wMake the invisible visible 


IN SUM 

Many injustices are invisible 
to the mainstream. When 
you bring these wrongs 
into full view, you change 
the game, making the need 
to take action palpable. 

EPIGRAPH 

“We who in engage in nonviolent 
direct action are not the 
creators of tension. We merely 
bring to the surface the hidden 
tension that is already alive.” 

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr 


PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
ACT-UP & Gran Fury 
Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Guerrilla Girls 
Eve Ensler 
United Farm Workers 
SNCC 

Rainforest Action Network 
Coco Fusco 
Lesbian Avengers 
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 
Operation SalAMI 
Preemptive Media 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


Social problems are often obscured by distance, ideology, or 
simple chemistry (when was the last time you noticed PCBs in 
your drinking water?). If you can’t see it, you can’t change it: 
the first task of an activist is often to make the invisible visible. 

There are several kinds of “invisibility.” Which one you’re 
dealing with will shape the approach you take. 

Distance 

Climate chaos might be stranding polar bears in the Arc- 
tic or submerging small island nations in the Pacific, but 
for most people in the global north it’s out of sight, out 
of mind. Countless artful interventions have sought to 
make accelerating climate changes more visible, whether 
by painting anticipated future sea levels on city streets and 
buildings or mock-drowning a polar bear in the fountain 
outside the Department of the Interior in D.C., as Green- 
peace did in 2009. 

People with privilege often have the luxury of putting 
distance between themselves and the consequences of 
their actions. When tackling an issue that seems distant, 
it helps to bring the issue home see PRINCIPLE: Bring the 
issue home by highlighting the human cost. 

Ideology 

People who have the luxury of not seeing an uncomfort- 
able truth often simply won’t, even if it’s in front of their 
faces. Privileged whites easily ignored the everyday injus- 
tices inflicted during the Jim Crow era until blacks orga- 
nized and took action, sitting in the “wrong” seats in din- 
ers and on buses, marching in the streets, and so on. 

Injustices made invisible by ideology can be brought 
to light by judicious reframing see PRINCIPLE: Reframe. A 
frame defines what is part of the story and, more impor- 
tantly, what is not. Actions that target the point of assump- 
tion (the simple question of who can sit where on a bus, 
for instance) can focus attention on what was previously 
“outside the frame.” 


152 


PRINCIPLE: Make the invisible visible 


Chemistry, and other easily overlooked facts of life 

Many pollutants cannot be seen by the naked eye, yet cause 
great harm. The key is to bring that harm into public view. 
Consider the makers of the movie Gasland, who lit some 
Pennsylvania tap water on fire, powerfully refuting years 
of industry denial with a single powerful visual demonstra- 
tion. Or the forest activists who filled several city intersec- 
tions with the stumps of cut-down trees. When Kodak was 
caught discharging toxins from its manufacturing plant in 
upstate New York, Greenpeace created a public fountain 
that brought the effluent from the pipe — normally out of 
site below the water surface — cascading into public view. 
These kind of actions are particularly effective when the 
corporation has worked hard to hide or deny the damage, 
or simply done it far away from consumers. 



A still from the movie “Gasland" by documentary filmmaker Josh Fox exposes the effects of fracking. 

The role of the activist often resembles that of the child in 
the Hans Christian Andersen story: even if everyone knows 
the emperor has no clothes, saying as much in public can have 
revolutionary consequences. Exposing previously hidden 
problems can be the first and most important step in resolv- 
ing them. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: Amnesty International, 

“Making the invisible visible'' 

http://trb.la/xJNGDV 

New Tactics in Human Rights. Resources 
and Tools/Building Awareness 

http://trb.la/z2HFML 

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater 

http://www.clearwater.org/about/history/ 

Slavoj Zizek, “Good Manners in the 
Age of Wikileaks,” London Review 
of Books January 20, 2011. 

Greenpeace, “Giant Melting da Vinci 
Artwork Recreated on Arctic Sea Ice " 

http://trb.la/wRJEgi 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Identity correction p. 60 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Banner hang p. 12 
Guerrilla projections p. 52 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Show, don't tell p. 174 
Bring the issue home p. 10 6 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Reframe p. 168 

Do the media’s work for them p. 124 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Alienation effect p. 210 

CASE STUDIES 

Modern-Day Slavery Museum p. 338 

Mining the museum p. 334 

Streets into gardens p. 368 

Trail of Dreams p. 384 

The couple in the cage p. 312 

Stolen Beauty boycott campaign p. 364 

The salt march p. 354 

Operation First Casualty web 

Whose tea party? p. 392 


PRINCIPLE: Make the invisible visible 



XfiX PRINCIPLE : 

w Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative 

(but don’t confuse the two) 


IN SUM 

Concrete tactics have 
measurable goals 
and are designed to have 
a direct physical impact. 
Communicative ones can be 
more symbolic. Knowing 
the difference and planning 
accordingly is important. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Diggers [1960s] 
The Va Basta Association 
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation 
Greenpeace 
Art and Revolution Collective 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


To varying degrees, all tactics might be concrete and commu- 
nicative. When activists confuse the two, the results can be 
counter-productive. 

A tactic is concrete to the degree that it seeks to achieve a 
specific, quantifiable objective. For example, anti-war orga- 
nizers may seek to blockade a port to keep a shipment of weap- 
ons from passing through. There is a specific goal, a tangible 
cost for the port and the companies that use it, and a way 
to evaluate success: either we stop the weapons or we don’t. 

A tactic is communicative insomuch as it communicates a 
political position, set of values or worldview. A mass march 
in response to an injustice can fall into this category. Commu- 
nicative tactics can be useful for exciting our base, building 
networks, seeking to sway public opinion, or scaring a target, 
but often do not have a specific, measurable, activating, realistic, 
time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goal. Success is more qualitative. 

To succeed, concrete tactics must force a response from 
the target see PRINCIPLE: Put your target in a decision dilemma. 
Communicative tactics might have a target, but can also work 
without one. 

While some actions can be both communicative and con- 
crete, it is important to understand the difference. People of- 
ten get discouraged by direct action because they take part in 
a communicative action and expect a concrete outcome. It’s 
better to be clear from the beginning about the difference, 
so that everyone knows how to measure, and contribute to, 
the action’s impact.' 

Consider an Occupy Wall Street effort to blockade the 
entrance to Goldman Sachs. At the action planning meet- 
ing, because there was no clarity about whether the action 
was communicative or concrete, at first the discussion was 
circular and unproductive. Some wanted people to lock 
arms in a simple human blockade see TACTIC: Blockade, oth- 
ers wanted to up the ante by using chains and other “hard 
gear.” Using gear has the benefit of staying power (it’s more 


154 


PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete and communicative 


difficult for the police to re- 
move you), but it carries much 
greater risk and is more diffi- 
cult to deploy. It became clear 
the group had neither time 
nor numbers to blockade every 
single exit. Therefore, if the ac- 
tion was conceived as concrete 
(trying to shut down Goldman 
Sachs), it would fail because 
it could not achieve a realistic 
instrumental outcome. If it was 
communicative, however — a 
symbolic act to amplify a message — it could be successful. 
Furthermore, a communicative action might have a power- 
ful expressive outcome by building the resolve, connection 
and commitment of participants by offering them a cathar- 
tic, transformative experience. When participants agreed to 
carry out a communicative action, the staying power of the 
blockade gear was no longer needed: there was no tactical 
advantage to holding the space longer. Instead, the group 
decided to go with a human blockade, which played better 
in the media (a main indicator of success for them in this ac- 
tion). If activists hadn’t assessed the purpose of their action 
and understood their goals, they likely would have made less 
strategic choices. 


people onen 
get discouraged 
by direct action 
because they 
take part in a 
communicative 
action and expect a 
concrete outcome ” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 
Occupation web 
Sit-in web 

PRINCIPLES 

Put your target in a decision 
dilemma p. 1 66 
Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

THEORIES 

Expressive and instrumental 

actions p. 232 

Points of intervention p. 250 

Action logic p. 208 

Activist realpolitik web 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 

CASE STUDIES 

Bottle in Seattle p. 286 

Whose tea party? p. 392 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 

Tar sands action p. 376 

Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 


1 The categories “concrete" and “communicative" are ways to measure the instrumental outcome of 
an action, as opposed to its expressive dimension. The expressive part of your action is focused 
on the self-expression of participants, while the instrumental outcome of an action is concerned 
with your action’s more direct impacts ( see THEORY: Expressive and instrumental actions]. 


PRINCIPLE: Make your actions both concrete and communicative 


/p\ principle = 

w No one wants to watch a drum circle 


IN SUM 

Participating in a drum circle 
is amazing, transformative and 
fun. Watching a drum circle, 
on the other hand, is torture. 
Don’t ask people to watch you 
have fun: get them involved! 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Weapons Lab Conversion Proposal 

http://trb. la/zUOYwt 

Video: “Say Something Nice." 
ImprovEverywhere. August 22, 2011 

http://youtu.be/RwEYYI-AGWs 


PRACTITIONERS 

Improv Everywhere 
Otpor! 
The [new] Diggers 
“I Dream Your Dream” 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Steve Lambert 


156 


Drum circles are incredible! Hanging out in the park with a 
mix of friends and strangers, making rhythms together, com- 
municating intuitively, adding your own rhythm, and making a 
big and beautiful sound that tills the park. It’s an amazing thing. 

Or so I’ve heard. 

My actual experiences with drum circles are entirely 
different. At best, they’re tolerable, but more often they’re 
torture. I’m trying to hang out in the park with my friends 
and these self-indulgent dipshits won’t stop banging on their 
goat skins. No one else cares except someone in a tie-dyed 
sarong who will apparently jump at any opportunity to sway 
with her arms in the air. 

Being part of a drum circle is one thing. Experiencing it 
from the outside, quite another. 

Way too often, activism is like a drum circle. Viewed from 
the outside, it can be painfully unimaginative, solipsistic 
and quite simply annoying. For the people involved in the 
creation of an action, however, the experience can be reward- 
ing and transformative — even if everyone else walks away 
confused or annoyed. If that happens and it doesn’t bother 
you, you may have fallen prey to the political identity paradox 
see THEORY. 

One way to reach your audience is to entice them to 
become participants by expanding the creative part of the 
action to include as many as possible. Come up with ways 
for observers to meaningfully involve themselves, instead of 
expecting them to stand mute before your expressive out- 
bursts of creativity. 

Instead of strictly planning an action, think of creating 
rules to a game — one that is rewarding and fun to play see 
PRINCIPLE: Simple rules can have grand results. How can you 
create parameters within which large numbers of partici- 
pants can meaningfully contribute, act, and create? An open 
framework that allows participants the freedom to bring in 
their own ideas and solutions? 

The call to occupy Wall Street operated in this way, of- 
fering only a date, a core slogan, and the instruction Bring 
tent. Flash mobs are no different: set a time, location, and 
a few basic rules, and let things take their course. These 


PRINCIPLE: No one wants to watch a drum circle 


actions have simple rules that can expand to include thousands 
of participants and still deliver a provocative experience to 
participant and observer alike. 

In any case, whatever the nature of your action, it’s worth 
looking for ways to make passersby feel that it’s more about 
them than about you. No matter how good a drummer you are. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Carnival protest web 
Street theater web 
Forum theater p. 48 



While those inside this drum circle seem to be reaching new levels of existential bliss, those watching aren’t likely to 
get much out of the event. We should strive to make our actions transparent and inclusive. 


PRINCIPLES 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 154 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

Make it funny web 

THEORIES 

Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
The social cure p. 264 
Action logic p. 208 

CASE STUDIES 

Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 


' Of course, Occupy Wall Street went on to attract its share of drum circles: http://yeslab.org/drumcircle 


PRINCIPLE: No one wants to watch a drum circle 


XfiX PRINCIPLE : 

w Pace yourself 


IN SUM 

Taking care of ourselves and 
having fun in our work for 
social change are essential 
to building stronger, larger, 
more effective movements. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Let’s treat each other as 
if we plan to work side by side 
in struggle for many, many 
years to come. Because 
the task before us 
will demand nothing less.” 

-Naomi Klein, address to 
Occupy Wall Street 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Weber, Cheyenna. “A Love Letter 
to the Overcommitted." 
Shareable.net. November 23, 2011. 

Macy, Joanna, and Molly Young Brown. 
Coming Back to Life. Gabriola Island, 
BC: New Society Publishers, 1998. 

Albert, Michael. The Trajectory of 
Change: Activist Strategies for Social 
Transformation. 
Boston: South End Press, 2002. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Tracey Mitchell 


158 


Too often, the people doing the most to take care of the world 
do the least to take care of themselves. It happens far too fre- 
quently that a dedicated activist suddenly (or not so suddenly, 
for those who know them best) burns out and disappears from 
public view. This scenario is common enough, and represents 
a large enough threat to our collective success, that it warrants 
serious discussion and soul-searching within our movements. 
Specifically, we need to talk about how to take care of ourselves 
and each other so we can stay involved for the long haul. 

Whether we like it or not, activists are walking advertise- 
ments for our movements. If we are exhausted, frustrated, 
overwhelmed or unhappy most of the time, we make a life of 
activism look extremely unattractive to the average person. Vir- 
tually every activist has struggled with the question of how to 
get beyond “preaching to the choir.” A first step is to make “the 
choir” the sort of place lots of people will want to join. 

It is also important to ensure that pragmatic self-care is not 
seen as selfish or bourgeois. If we don’t take time to focus on 
our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves, we will 
burn out sooner or later. It’s almost guaranteed. Wouldn’t it be 
better to take regular breaks to nurture yourself, rather than 
get to the point where you have to take months or years off be- 
cause you are too sick or depressed to be involved? 

Activists are frequently motivated by guilt, and will uncon- 
sciously use guilt to motivate others. Guilt is a dangerous moti- 
vator because it will never be satisfied, and is rooted in a sense 
of external obligation rather than internal passion. A better 
motivator, for those who have some degree of privilege and feel 
guilty about that, is gratitude. Coming to this work from grati- 
tude gives us energy without sucking us into despair and self- 
judgment. 

These are deadly serious questions. Long-time Canadian 
activist Tooker Gomberg took his own life in 2004 after a long 
battle with depression and burn-out. Before he died, he wrote 
a letter to social change activists. Do the activism, he said, but 
don’t overdo it: 

It’s honorable to work to change the world, but do it 

in balance with other things. Explore and embrace the 


PRINCIPLE: Pace yourself 


things you love to do, and you’ll be energetic and en- 
thusiastic about the activism. Don’t drop hobbies or en- 
joyments. Be sure to hike and dance and sing. Keeping 
your spirit alive and healthy is fundamental if you are to 
keep going . 1 


“It’s better to sit 
out a game or two 
than to drop the 
ball mid-game.” 


It is important to take a long 
view of activism, to remember 
those who came before us and 
those who will come after. This 
can help us build on the work 
of previous generations and learn from their mistakes and 
triumphs, so that we are not always starting from scratch. We 
cannot carry all of the weight of the world’s problems on our 
shoulders; we must simply accept, with gratitude, the opportu- 
nity to do what we can today. 


Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Delegate p. 122 
Beware the tyranny of 
structurelessness p. 102 
Create levels of participation web 
Take risks but take care p. 182 
Make it funny web 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Don’t be a flake. Often, when people sud- 
denly realize that they need to take better care of themselves 
or need a break, they flake out on existing commitments and 
leave comrades in the lurch. Learning to anticipate breaks, 
plan for them and not overcommit is a really important part of 
pacing. It’s better to sit out a game or two than to drop the ball 
mid-game. 


1 looker Go mberg, “Letter to an Activist, Earth Day 2002 " (Greenspiration.org) 


PRINCIPLE: Pace yourself 


159 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Play to the audience that isn't there 


IN SUM 

In a hyper-mediated world, 
often the audience you care 
about is not the one in the 
room with you, but the one 
you’ll reach through mass 
and social media. Design your 
action with them in mind. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 
Agit-Pop 
CANVAS 
Greenpeace 
Joey Skaggs 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 
Andrew Boyd 


160 


When you’re pulling off a prank or staging some kind of media 
spectacle, it’s important to keep in mind that those you’re di- 
rectly confronting are often not your main audience. When Oc- 
cupy Wall Street activists swarm Manhattan’s financial district 
or Bhopal activists camp out on the lawn of the CEO of Union 
Carbide, there’s no reason to think that the immediate audience 
will change their minds based on what they’re observing. Rath- 
er, the idea is to use the immediate audience as unwitting ac- 
tors in a theater piece that is being performed for a secondary 
audience. That secondary audience is comprised of hlmgoers or 
Youtube viewers or TV watchers or press-release readers — and 
they’re the ones you care most about. Design your intervention 
with them in mind. 



If reporters are going to be present, consider how things 
will look through their eyes. Regardless, however, make sure to 
document your own action see PRINCIPLE: Do the media’s work 
for them. Choreograph the action so you create and capture 


PRINCIPLE: Play to the audience that isn’t there 




“Think of your 
immediate audience 
as unwitting actors 
in the theater piece 
you’re concocting 
for another 
audience they’re 
not even aware of.’’ 


the moments you need to tell 
the story you want to tell. When 
Agit-Pop pulled off their Public 
Option Annie guerrilla musical 
see CASE, they snuck more vid- 
eographers into the conference 
than singers. 

Obviously, the secondary au- 
dience is not always your focus. 

At a rally, say, the key audience 
might actually be the partici- 
pants themselves. With most 
strikes or sit-ins, the key audi- 
ence is the actual target — a CEO or public official — and your 
aim is to disrupt business as usual and exact a cost that will 
pressure your target to accede to your demands. 

But even with some of these more disruptive actions, the 
key audience is not in the room. When Tim DeChristopher dis- 
rupted a Utah oil and gas auction in 2008 see CASE: Bidder 70, 
he was not tempted to address the other bidders directly. His 
action was for a much larger audience — as well as for the land 
itself that he helped to save. 

Sometimes activists think they’re out to change the minds 
of the bankers, CEOs, or others they’re ostensibly targeting. 
It’s one thing to pretend you’re out to change their minds — in 
order to stage a theatrically effective action, that is often neces- 
sary — but it’s another thing to believe it yourself. The idea that 
you can change evildoers’ minds by gathering en masse outside 
their stronghold is not exactly supported by the historical 
record. Instead, think of your target and your immediate audi- 
ence as unwitting actors in the theater piece you’re concocting 
for another audience they’re not even aware of. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Hoax p. 54 

Identity correction p. 60 
Infiltration p. 64 
Public filibuster p. 86 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Human banner p. 56 
Electoral guerrilla theater p. 40 
Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Media-jacking p. 72 
Creative petition delivery p. 22 

PRINCIPLES 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Stay on message p. 178 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Anger works best when you have 

the moral high ground p. 96 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 1 66 

Don't look like a protester p. 126 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 

THEORIES 

Society of the spectacle p. 266 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
The propaganda model p. 2 56 

CASE STUDIES 

Public Option Annie p. 346 
Bidder 70 p. 290 


HOW THE OPPOSITE IS EQUALLY TRUE: Sometimes this principle is 
absolutely wrong. Sometimes the media and the public will see 
right through an action that is too heavy-handedly crafted for 
TV. Sometimes the best way to connect with the indirect audi- 
ence is just to be your unvarnished, authentic self, warts and all 
see CASE: Occupy Wall Street. 


PRINCIPLE: Play to the audience that isn’t there 



raxis makes perfect 


IN SUM 

Theory without action produces 
armchair revolutionaries. 
Action without reflection 

produces ineffective or 
counter-productive activism. 
That’s why we have praxis: 
a cycle of theory, action 
and reflection that helps us 
analyze our efforts in order 
to improve our ideas. 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Moore, Hillary, and Joshua Kahn Russell. 

Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and 
Reflections to Navigate the Climate 
Crisis. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011. 

Praxis Makes Perfect: Joshua 
Kahn Russell's blog 

www.praxismakesperfect.org 

Beyond the Choir: A forum for 
grassroots mobilization 

www.beyondthechoir.org 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


“Praxis requires us 
to be students of 
our own experience 
and context.” 


Effective activism follows a cycle. We start with our theory of 
how change happens. Then we take action based on our theo- 
ry. Then we take a step back and reflect on how the action went, 
which re-shapes our theory. Basically, praxis means “learning.” 
It may seem simple, but few activists actually do it. 

Praxis requires us to be students of our own experience 
and context. It’s not just about being smart and reflecting. 
It’s also about building spe- 
cific behaviors and group norms 
that promote habits of strategy, 
debrief and revision. It’s 
about your group’s meeting 
style, organizational structure 
and leadership dynamics. 

Here’s the difference that praxis can make: 

Let’s say we’re in a student group at a college. If our group 
lacks praxis, we may say: “Let’s bring Radical Thinker X to 
speak at our campus!” We affirm that the event will be “good.” 
Then we have the event. It’s somewhat well-attended, but after- 
wards our group has mixed feelings about it. We decide to keep 
moving forward and host another event. 

That’s a bit directionless. There was no actual theory, and 
no basis for reflection. 

Instead, let’s start with a theory. We start our group meeting 
by saying “Bringing Radical Thinker X to campus will help our 
campaign. They can talk about why activism is powerful, and 
it will reach a new audience of people who are not yet engaged 
in our campaign. Let’s post fliers in our favorite coffee shops. 
Three hundred people will attend, fifty will sign up, and five of 
those people will show up at our next meeting.” 

Now that’s a real theory. It has an explicit logic, a process of 
how you will do your action, and concrete measurable outcomes 
that you expect. 

The event happens. Only one hundred people attend and 
most of them already work with your group, so only a few sign 
your list, and nobody new comes to your next meeting. 

You now have a real basis for reflection. You can debrief your 
event, and instead of subjectively talking about whether you 
thought it was “good” or not, you can have a conversation about 


PRINCIPLE: Praxis makes perfect 


Related: 



PRINCIPLES 

Pick battles big enough to matter, 

small enough to win web 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Challenge patriarchy as 

you organize p. 108 

When the people are with you, act web 

Beware the tyranny of 

structurelessness p. 102 

We are all leaders p. 202 

THEORIES 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Pillars of support p.248 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 


The Praxis Wheel. Art by Joshua Kahn Russell. 

why it didn’t measure up to your success indicators, and what to 
do next time. These lessons shape how you do your next event. 

Organizers should have the praxis cycle spinning in their 
heads all the time. We are always learning from what’s going 
on around us. The point of building a culture of praxis in your 
group, however, is so your whole group can learn, not just a cou- 
ple of organizers. When you develop your theory (your plan 
and your goals) with your group, and then have a real debrief 
after, the lessons are available to all. If you don’t take real time 
out to name your theories, and then reflect, revise, and learn 
lessons, you will be left spinning your wheels, with fewer and 
fewer people understanding how to do the work of your group. 


PRINCIPLE: Praxis makes perfect 


XfiX PRINCIPLE : 

w Put movies in the hands of movements 


IN SUM 

By telling a personal story, 
documentary film can make an 
otherwise difficult-to-approach 
issue accessible. Filmmakers 
and activists, working together, 
can collaborate to make a film a 
story-driven lever for change. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Making the movie and getting 
it to screen is only 50% of the 
job. What to do when the lights 
come up - how to harness 
that energy in the room... 
well that’s the other 50%.” 

-George Stoney 

PRACTITIONERS 

Working Films 
http://www.workingfilms.org 
Active Voice 
www.activevoice.net 
Film Sprout 
www.filmsprout.org 
Films That Change the World 
www.filmsthatchangetheworld.com 
Hybrid Foundation/Practitioner 
www.thefledglingfund.org 
GOOD PITCH Channel 4 
Brit-Docs Foundation's 
http://britdoc.org/real_good/pitch 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Judith Helfand 
Anna Lee 


164 


Story-driven documentaries change minds, attitudes and poli- 
cies. But they reach their fullest potential when tightly woven 
into the campaigns and events of organizers working on the 
issues. As activist filmmakers, here are a couple of key rules my 
colleagues and I have learned: 

Create mutually beneficial rela- 
tionships between filmmakers and 

organizers. Authentic partner- 
ships start with the filmmaker 
asking the movement, “What 
can my him do for you?” Not, 

“what can you do for my him?” 

Certainly, the movement has much to offer the hlmmaker in 
return (and we’ll get to that) but it’s important to begin with 
this frame. 

Look for hve to ten organizations to partner with — some 
might be small and scrappy, others may have national reach. 
Ask them for the strategy; don’t guess. Effective conversations 
start with questions like: “What are your current programs and 
priorities and how could our him support them?” “What do 
you want audiences to do when the lights come up?” Partner 
organizations have resources to offer in return: online tools 
that can be embedded into a hlm’s website, information that 
can be added to a hlm’s screening guide or curriculum, con- 
stituents and allies eager to spread the word, and actions that 
audience members can take. All of this creates a cycle which 
builds momentum for both the him and the movement. 

Move from “film timeline ” to “organizing timeline.” The hrst year 
or so of a hlm’s life is driven by the him timeline: you take it 
around the festival circuit, bring it to theaters or community 
events and, if you’re lucky, broadcast it. This is a great time to 
experiment together. For example, you might try out a mobile 
app where you ask festival audiences to sign a petition while 
they are still in their seats. 

But at a certain point, a hlmmaker shifts to “organizing 
time” — especially when there is a timely, urgent ongoing 
campaign that needs the him. Community screenings, house 


"We create a cycle 
by which we build 
momentum for 
both the film and 
the movement” 


PRINCIPLE: Put movies in the hands of movements 


parties, online streaming: all these traditional venues for dis- 
tribution can be utilized strategically by organizations and 
individual activists on the ground. They might use screening 
events to get more folks to sign up for an upcoming national 
day of action and then use clips to energize the crowd on the 
day of the action. Or they might use house party screenings and 
discussions to mobilize their constituents around a pending piece 
of legislation that needs that extra push. At this stage, a cam- 
paign’s needs and timeline inform when and how the him is used 
and catalyze the long-term change everyone is working toward. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: The most important part of being an 
“independent” storyteller isjust that: your independence. While 
you have to balance the needs of your organizing partners with 
the needs of your narrative, the story has to come first. You 
might be making a him with Greenpeace, but you are not mak- 
ing it for them. It’s critical that this relationship is understood 
by all parties — the organizers, the press, as well as opponents 
who, given half the chance, will cry, “Propaganda!” The key to 
this synergy is not just the perception of independence, but its 
reality. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Working Films, “Impact: A Series of 
Stories about Films Making Change” 

www.workingfilms.org/impact 

Video: “Everything's Cool at 
Sundance: Leveraging a Film Fest" 

Part 1: http://youtu.be/zJfjv7t6Z2Q 
Part 2: http://youtu.be/CVvAGAPY6ik 

Video: “Everything's Cool: Step It Up" 

http://youtu.be/kx_Pu9-TLn4 

Independent Documentary 
Association, “DOC ‘U’on the ROAD" 

http://trb.la/ycoowO 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Guerrilla projection p. 52 

PRINCIPLES 

Think narratively p. 186 
Stay on message p. 178 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Think nationally, screen locally web 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Show, don't tell p. 174 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Pedagogy of the oppressed p. 246 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 


PRINCIPLE: Put movies in the hands of movements 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Put your target in a decision dilemma 


IN SUM 

Design your action so that 
your target is forced to make a 
decision, and all their available 
options play to your advantage. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Cindy Sheehan 
United for a Fair Economy 
Saul Aiinsky 
Otpor 

The ProvosFURTHER INSIGHT 

Philippe Duhamel, “The Dilemma 
Demonstration: Using nonviolent civil 
disobedience to put the government 
between a rock and a hard place " (2004). 

http://trb.la/Aq6iwp 

Srdja Popovic, “On Otpor's strategy." 
Centre for Applied Nonviolent 
Action and Strategies. 

http://trb.la/A1kUAr 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 
Joshua Kahn Russell 


166 


If you design your action well, 
you can force your target into 
a situation where they have to 
respond, but have no good op- 
tions — where they’re damned 
if they do, damned if they don’t. 
In fact, many actions with con- 
crete goals (such as blockades, 
sit-ins, tree-sits, etc) require such 
a “decision dilemma” in order 
to be successful. 

Consider the blockade of a 
building. A tactically effective 
blockade leaves your target with 
only two options: 1) negotiate 
with you / meet your demands, 
or 2) react with force (violence 
against you or arrest). That’s a decision dilemma. Don’t let your 
target walk out the back door, and don’t put yourself in a situa- 
tion where they can wait you out with impunity. You must force 
a clear decision dilemma. Without it, you let your target and/ 
or the police determine the success of your action, rather than 
calling the shots yourself. Be sure to cover all the exits — liter- 
ally or figuratively. 

Creative activists can adapt this tactical insight to force their 
target into a similar dilemma on the symbolic level. 

Take Cindy Sheehan. In the summer of 2005, after the 
death of her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, in the Iraq War, 
she camped out in front of President Bush’s Texas ranch where 
he had just begun a three-week vacation. Quoting Bush’s own 
words back to him, she vowed not to leave until he met with her 
to explain for what “noble cause” her son had died. 

Once the media started covering the stand-off, Bush was 
trapped in a decision dilemma: he was damned if he did meet 
with her, damned if he didn’t. Meeting with her would’ve been 
a media fiasco. Not meeting with her conceded her point. Ei- 
ther way he lost. In the end, he never met with Sheehan, and 
“Camp Casey” became one of the key watershed moments that 
turned American public opinion against the war. 



Cindy Sheehan. 


PRINCIPLE: Put your target in a decision dilemma 


Or consider the Whose Tea Party? action see CASE. GOP 
Congressmen gathered on the Boston Tea Party ship for a 
set-piece media stunt: tossing a trunk labelled “tax code” into 
the harbor. But they were suddenly confronted by a dingy of 
activists — “the Working Family Life Raft” — in the water be- 
neath them, pleading not to be swamped by the proposed flat 
tax. With cameras rolling, the target had two choices: either 
toss the tax code in and sink the raft (as they did) or back 
down on their declared intention to dispose of the tax code. By 
throwing it in and capsizing the raft, they played into the activ- 
ists’ story that the GOP’s proposed tax reform would “sink the 
working family.” Backing down would also have undermined 
the GOP argument by symboli- 
cally conceding that the tax 
would be harmful to working 
families. As with Camp Casey, 
this decision dilemma was not a 
happy accident, but a key design 
element of the action. 

Often, for this principle to 
work, you have to be prepared to 
wait out your opponent. Cindy 
Sheehan committed to camp- 
ing outside Bush’s ranch for the 
duration of his vacation. She wasn’t going anywhere. It was his 
move, and he didn’t have one. Similarly, the Working Family 
Life Raft bobbed in the water, pleading for the GOP to spare 
working families while the media documented the event. Un- 
like a lot of actions, there were no security guards to clear them 
out. They could just wait, and the more the GOPers hesitated, 
the more they reinforced the protesters’ message. 


“Don’t let your 
target walk out 
the back door, and 
don’t put yourself 
in a situation where 
they can wait you 
out with impunity.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Identity Correction p. 60 
Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 
Sit-in web 

PRINCIPLES 

Take risks but take care p. 182 

The real action is your 

target's reaction web 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Get arrested in an intelligent way web 

Be both expressive and 

instrumental web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Activist realpolitik web 

CASE STUDIES 

Whose tea party? p. 392 
Camp Casey web 
Dow Chemical apologizes 
for Bhopal p. 318 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: As with bear safety, so with activism: forc- 
ing someone into a corner can sometimes provoke a violent 
response. If your intention is to eliminate the flight option in a 
fight-or-flight scenario, then you need to take all necessary pre- 
cautions to minimize the risk to you and your allies, should the 
target choose to lash out see PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care. 


PRINCIPLE: Put your target in a decision dilemma 


PI1INCIPLE : 

™ Reframe 


IN SUM 

The easiest way to win an 
argument is to redefine 
the terms of the debate. 

EPIGRAPH 

“There is a basic truth about 
framing. If you accept the 
other guy’s frame, you lose.” 

-George Lakoff 

PRACTITIONERS 

Design Studio for Social Intervention 
Voina 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Doyle Canning 
Patrick Reinsborough 



The United Workers and Public Justice Center on the National Day of Action Against Wage Theft - an act of radical 
reframing. 


Reframing is a process of replacing an old story with a new one 
by widening the frame, narrowing the frame, or shifting the 
frame to another scene entirely. 

The powers-that-be usually go to great lengths to frame 
their agenda in a way that is favorable for their interests — 
think nanny state, tax relief, death panels. Like a camera’s view- 
finder, the frame of a narrative focuses the public on specific 
information that reflects the interests of the framers. 

How do you reframe an issue? The first step is to conduct a 
narrative power analysis see THEORY- — a study of how the issue 
is currently framed, which seeks to identify its underlying as- 
sumptions — for example, “there is no alternative,” or “a rising 
tide lifts all boats,” or “the U.S. brings democracy to the Third 
World.” 

Following from your narrative power analysis, come up with 
another story that exposes the faulty assumptions of the status 
quo. For instance, cast new characters who previously haven’t 
been heard from, or redefine the problem by introducing a 
different set of values, or pose a new solution that is more 
compelling than what is currently on offer. Reframing often 


168 


PRINCIPLE: Re frame 



involves making the invisible visible see PRINCIPLE by highlighting 
aspects of the story that have been left out of the dominant story. 

Next, design a reframing action that seeks to relocate the 
story. Redirect the public’s focus to the scene of the crime to 
reveal a villain, whether it’s a corporate boardroom or a CEO’s 
seventh home. Use an emblematic location tied to an histori- 
cal narrative, like a monument or a park with a name that is 
significant in the story (Liberty Plaza Park or a Christopher 
Columbus statue for instance) . Tie your action to high-profile 
events or dates that are soon to follow, framing and foreshad- 
owing the public conversation around those celebrations. For 
instance, on Tax Day posing as tax collectors at the HQs of the 
Big Banks and trying to get them to pay their proper share 
might reframe the public discussion of tax evasion. 

If you expand your reframing action into a campaign, you 
might succeed in injecting powerful new memes into the media 
and policy discourse. Adam Kader of the Arise Workers Center 
in Chicago offers this example: 

Institutions like the Department of Labor and the 
mainstream media referred to the phenomena of 
worker exploitation as “non-payment of wages.” Then, 
several years ago, worker centers designed the “wage 
theft” meme. This meme overthrows the dominant 
assumption that wages are the property of the boss, 
to be shared with workers. Rather, in this new nar- 
rative, wages are the property of workers, and have 
been stolen by the boss. . . . The media has begun to 
use the meme when they report on our campaigns 
and legislators have incorporated the phrase “wage 
theft” in the names of bills . 1 

Effective creative action should serve the larger strategic goal 
of provoking a shift in the public conversation. Reframing is 
often a critical step to winning a campaign and making real 
change. 


1 Adam Kader, “Storytelling as Organizing: How to Rescue the Left from its Crisis of Imagination," In 
These Times, January 10, 2011, http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/6824/ 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Drew Westen, The Political Brain: 

The Role of Emotion in Deciding 
the Fate of the Nation. Philadel- 
phia, PA: Public Affairs, 2008. 

Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough. 
Redmagining Change: An Introduction to 
Story-Based Strategy, smart Meme, 2009. 

smartmeme.org/downloads/smart- 

Meme.RelmaginingChange.pdf 

ThinkProgress. “Thanks to the 99 
Percent Movement, Media Finally Cov- 
ering Jobs Crisis and Marginalizing 
Deficit Hysteria,’’ October 18, 2011 

http://thinkprogress.org/ 

special/2011/10/18/346892/chart-media- 

jobs-wall-street-ignoring-deficit-hysteria/ 

Charlotte Ryan. Prime Time Activism: 
Media Strategies for Grassroots 
Organizing. Boston: South End Press, 1991. 

The Centre for Media Justice, “Toolbox" 

http://centerformediajustice.org/toolbox/ 

The Praxis Project. Fair Game: A Strategy 
for Racial Justice Communications in the 
Obama Era. Oakland, CA: AK Press 2011. 

George Lakoff. Don't think of an Elephant! 
Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. 
White River Jet, VT: Chelsea Green, 2004. 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Direct action p. 32 
Identity correction p. 60 
Electoral guerrilla theater p. 40 

PRINCIPLES 

Think narratively p. 18 6 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Public Option Annie p. 346 
The battle in Seattle p. 286 
Streets into gardens p. 368 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 


PRINCIPLE: Reframe 



PRINCIPLE : 


eek common ground 


IN SUM 

In search of allies and points 
of agreement, we must grow 
comfortable adopting the 
rhetoric of worldviews we 
might otherwise oppose. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Evangelical Climate Initiative 
smart Meme 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Beyond the Choir, “Narrative Insurgency: 
Grassroots Communication Tips, Part 
3," by Jonathan Matthew Smucker 

http://trb.la/wUvwRJ 

Beyond the Choir, “Speak the 
Truth, Tell a Story: Building a 
Successful Antiwar Movement," 
by Jonathan Matthew Smucker 

http://trb.la/AAPfNy 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 


170 


When disagreeing with someone else’s ideas, it can be tempt- 
ing to engage in narrative attack; to make a direct attack on 
one narrative from the vantage point, and in the language, of 
your opposing narrative. For example, when someone wraps 
climate change-denial views in the rhetoric of creationist 
beliefs, it is tempting to directly attack the climate change 
denier’s whole belief system. Once a narrative attack is made, 
persuasion becomes nearly impossible because the attacked 
person feels that their whole belief system is under siege. 
Change becomes impossible. 

A narrative insurgency approach, on the other hand, exam- 
ines the other’s narrative framework, learning the component 
parts and looking for points of connection. Rather than 
directly attack a creationist’s whole belief system, for instance, 
a “narrative insurgent” looks to foment home-grown insur- 
gency against the most problematic beliefs by identifying 
ally beliefs and seeking to reinforce them. When speaking to 
creationists about environmental issues, for example, empha- 
sizing humanity’s mandate to care for God’s creation can be 
an effective point of entry. 

If we are to transform the political culture, we need to 
think not in terms of attacking opponents’ views head-on, but 
rather in terms of fomenting homegrown insurgency. The 
root of the word insurgency is “rise up.” Insurgencies rise up 
from within. Narrative insurgency rises up from within a cul- 
tural narrative, transforming that culture from the inside out. 

The narrative insurgent’s approach, well executed, can be 
very effective for identifying and drawing out allies: in this 
case, creationists who care about the environment and are 
uneasy seeing it ravaged for the sake of private profit. By 
repeating and positively reinforcing this message in the con- 
text of ongoing engagement, the belief that we should care for 
the earth can be strengthened within the given community’s 
complex collective belief system. 

Narrative insurgents do not reject problematic narratives 
wholesale, but distinguish between those components that 
are allied, hostile or neutral to their cause. They embrace 
as much of a cultural narrative as possible — the allied and 
neutral components — and encourage the further develop- 


PRINCIPLE: Seek common ground 



ment of the allied components, 
using these as the foundations 
for their organizing efforts 
with and within the given com- 
munity. 

This approach doesn’t mean 
always avoiding direct confron- 
tation with harmful narratives 
and beliefs. It’s more like a 
preference for finding common 
ground and utilizing positive 
reinforcement whenever pos- 
sible. Ultimately there comes 
a time when a destructive nar- 
rative becomes untenable to 
a critical mass of people, and 
when a new polarization will be 
useful (e.g. during a revolu- 
tionary moment) . The strategy here is to lay the groundwork 
that necessarily precedes such a moment: to feed the allied 
components within a narrative until they are strong enough 
to burst out of the old framework. 

Narrative insurgency only works if applied in the context 
of accountable relationships with reliable feedback loops. A 
change agent learns the intricacies of cultural narratives not 
to deceive people, but to communicate common values in a 
language that holds meaning for large numbers of people. 
While she may often disagree with others, she still values and 
even empathizes with their perspectives. She is forgiving to- 
ward shortcomings, always rooting for people, always finding 
something worthy of praise. Over time, narrative insurgency 
becomes second nature: we don’t feign identification with the 
allied and neutral components within another community’s 
narrative or culture, because our orientation is to connect 
with people wherever and whenever possible. 


Narrative insurgents seek common ground with allies by 
branding their eco-friendly product with the slogan “God 
is green." 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Infiltration p. 64 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

Reframe p. 168 

Team up with experts p. 184 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Stay on message p. 178 

Use others' prejudices against them p. 192 

Consider your audience p. 118 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Whose tea party? p. 392 
The Big Donor Show p. 294 


PRINCIPLE: Seek common ground 




ift the spectrum of allies 


IN SUM 

Movements seldom win by 
overpowering the opposition; 
they win by shifting the 
support out from under 
them. Determine the social 
blocs at play on a given 
issue, and work to shift them 
closer to your position. 

PRACTITIONERS 

April 6 Youth Movement 
Cindy Sheehan 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Explanation of the “Spectrum 
of Allies," from NewTactics 

http://trb.la/AnSvdW 

Training for Change [tactics 
for strategic nonviolence] 

www.trainingforchange.org 

Doug M cAdam, Freedom Summer. 
Oxford Univ. Press, 1988. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


Activists are often good at analyzing systemic social problems, 
but less good at thinking systemically about organizing. 

Activism is about using your power and voice to make 
change. Organizing is about that, too, but it’s also about ac- 
tivating and empowering others. It helps to think in terms of 
groups. Successful movement-building hinges on being able 
to see a society in terms of specific blocs or networks, some of 
which are institutions (unions, 
churches, schools), others of 
which are less visible or cohe- 
sive, like youth subcultures or 
demographic groupings. 

Analyzing your spectrum 
of allies can help you to iden- 
tify and mobilize the networks 
around you. A spectrum-of-al- 
lies analysis can be used to map 
out a campaign or to strategize 
for a whole social movement. 

Here’s how a spectrum-of-allies analysis works: in each 
wedge you can place different individuals (be specific: name 
them!), groups, or institutions. Moving from left to right, iden- 
tify your active allies : people who agree with you and are fight- 
ing alongside you; your passive allies: folks who agree with you 
but aren’t doing anything about it; neutrals: fence-sitters, the 
unengaged; passive opposition: people who disagree with you 
but aren’t trying to stop you; and finally your active opposition. 

Some activist groups only speak or work with those in the 
first wedge (active allies), building insular, self-referential, 
marginal subcultures that are incomprehensible to everyone 
else. Others behave as if everyone is in the last wedge (ac- 
tive opposition), playing out the “story of the righteous few,” 
acting as if the whole world is against them. Both of these 
approaches virtually guarantee failure. Movements win not 
by overpowering their active opposition, but by shifting the 
support out from under them. 

For example, in 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordi- 
nating Committee (SNCC), a major driver of the civil rights 
movement in the U.S. South, conducted a “spectrum-of-allies 


“Movements 
win not by 
overpowering their 
active opposition , 
but by shifting 
the support out 
from under them.” 


PRINCIPLE: Shift the spectrum of allies 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 

PRINCIPLES 

Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Reframe p. 168 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Think narratively p. 186 
Consider your audience p. 118 




Spectrum of Allies. Art by Joshua Kahn Russell. 

style” analysis. They determined that they had a lot of pas- 
sive allies who were students in the North: these students were 
sympathetic, but had no entry point into the movement. They 
didn’t need to be “educated” or convinced, they needed an 
invitation to enter. 

To shift these allies from “passive” to “active,” SNCC sent 
buses north to bring folks down to participate in the strug- 
gle under the banner “Freedom Summer.” Students came in 
droves, and many were deeply radicalized in the process, wit- 
nessing lynching, violent police abuse, and angry white mobs, 
all simply as a result of black activists trying to vote. 

Many wrote letters home to their parents, who suddenly 
had a personal connection to the struggle. This triggered an- 
other shift: their families became passive allies, often bringing 
their workplaces and social networks with them. The students, 
meanwhile, went back to school in the fall and proceeded to 
organize their campuses. More shifts. The result: a profound 
transformation of the political landscape of the U.S. This cas- 
cading shift of support, it’s important to emphasize, wasn’t 
spontaneous; it was part of a deliberate movement strategy 
that, to this day, carries profound lessons for other move- 
ments. 


THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Cycles of social movements web 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 

Bidder 70 p. 290 

Trail of Dreams p. 384 

Wisconsin Capitol occupation p. 396 

Justice for Janitors p. 326 


PRINCIPLE: Shift the spectrum of allies 



ow, don’t tell 


IN SUM 

Use metaphor, visuals 
and action to show your 
message rather than falling 
into preaching, hectoring 
or otherwise telling your 
audience what to think. 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Stephen Duncombe, Dream: Re-Imagining 
Progressive Politics in an age of 
Fantasy. New York: New Press, 2007. 

Video: The Sound of Wealth Inequality 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=_AhucAN6C00 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Doyle Canning 
Patrick Reinsborough 
Kevin Buckland 


A picture is worth a thousand words. In today’s image-driven 
news cycle and mass media culture, this is truer than ever. 
Effective creative campaigns must be image-driven, too. In 
other words, show, don’t tell. And there are lot of ways to do it: 

Lead with story, not facts. Facts rarely speak for them- 
selves. While the factual accuracy of your message is essential, 
facts should only serve as the supporting details for the story, 
not the hook that makes the story compelling. 

If you want to convey the 
devastation of unemployment, 
don’t lead with statistics. Tell 
us a compelling story about 
one person. Then tell us there 
are ten million more like her 
out there. 


“Showing not telling 
means emphasizing 
narrative over data 
and creating a story 
that puts the facts 
in perspective.” 


Make it visual. A lot of im- 
portant stuff is hard to talk 
about — it’s too big, far away, abstract or complex. Props, 
visuals and concrete language can help bring things down 
to human scale. Take economic inequality, for example. 
You can easily get lost in the finer points of the tax code, 
but when billionaire Warren Buffet says that his secretary 
pays more taxes than he does, and that that’s wrong, it’s 
hard to argue with. To draw attention to the increasing 
disparity between CEO and worker pay, one group un- 
veiled a tiny replica of the Washington Monument that 
was 419 times smaller than the actual one they were hold- 
ing their press conference in front of. 


Use powerful metaphors. With metaphor you can show 
something for what it is, rather than have to explain it. To 
find your compelling metaphor, look for something that 
embodies what you are trying to communicate. Recent- 
ly, the immigration debate in the U.S. has been usefully 
engaged via the metaphor of migratory birds (“Do migrat- 
ing birds need passports too?”), neatly pointing up the 
absurdity of the situation, without focusing on any specific 
policy or piece of legislation. 


PRINCIPLE: Show, don't tell 


Related: 



Speak with actions. Instead 
of telling, act out what it 
is that you want to say. At 
protests, whenever there 
are lines of police protect- 
ing a bank, a metaphor is 
being enacted that reflects 
the reality of the situa- 
tion: the state defends the 
wealthy from the rest of 
us. Sometimes it’s enough 
to just point that out — or 
you can ham it up see CASE: 

Teddy bear catapult. 

A well-designed action 
explains itself, and ideally 
offers multiple ways into 
the issue. You want your au- 
dience to reach their own 
conclusion, rather than 
feeling like they are being told what to think. 


This simple image in this poster proved extremely 
effective at putting pressure on cosmetics executives. 


Preachy isn’t persuasive. Whether we’re telling a story, conjur- 
ing a scene, offering up a metaphor, leading by example, or 
letting our actions speak volumes, there are millions of ways 
to convey our message and values without launching into a 
political diatribe. Let’s do ourselves and our audience a favor: 
Show, don’t tell. 


TACTICS 

Artistic vigil p. 10 
Human banner p. 56 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Guerrilla projection p. 52 
Trek p. 90 
Direct action p. 32 
Identity correction p. 60 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Think narratively p. 186 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

The real action is your 

target's reaction web 

Balance art and message p. 100 

Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 

Put movies in the hands 

of movements web 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Stay on message p. 178 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Memes p. 242 
Floating signifier p.234 

CASE STUDIES 

The salt march p. 354 
Teddy-bear catapult p. 380 
Virtual streetcorners p. 388 


PRINCIPLE: Show, don't tell 






PRINCIPLE : 


imple rules can have grand results 


IN SUM 

Movements, viral campaigns 
and large-scale actions 
can’t be scripted from the 
top down. An invitation to 
participate and the right set of 
simple rules are often all the 
starter-structure you need. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Sept 17. Wall Street. 
Bring tent.” 

-Adbusters 

PRACTITIONERS 

Improv Everywhere 
Adbusters 
350.org 
Otpor! 
UK Uncut 
Ze Frank 
Allan Kaprow 
Women in Black 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

“We are the 99 Percent" tumblr 

http://wearethe99percent. 

tumblr.com/submit 

Otpor! 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otpor! 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


176 


In 1986, computer scientists did an experiment on “ emergence 

— where complex global behavior can arise” unplanned and 
unprogrammed “from the interaction of simple local rules.” 
They created virtual birds called “boids.” (The computer sci- 
entists must have been from Brooklyn.) They put these boids 
in a virtual environment and threw in a few virtual obstacles. 
They assigned every boid the same three simple rules: fly for- 
wards, stay a certain distance from any other boids near you 
and don’t bang into obstacles. Then they threw the switch. 
The birds flocked together. As the flock approached a cloud, 
it would break up into smaller flocks to either side, and then 
reform — all without the idea of flocking ever being pro- 
grammed into the system. 

This experiment was a stripped-down demonstration of 
something we experience in nature and society all the time 

— and something activists can put to good use. 

If you’re trying to organize a participatory art piece, a mass 
action or a viral campaign, you don’t need to script it all out — 
even if you could. All you need are a few simple rules that par- 
ticipants can sign on to. If you hit on the right rules, they can 
lead to a surprisingly robust, effective and beautiful happening. 

Think of Critical Mass, the 
monthly mass bike rides that 
take place in cities across the 
world. The rules are simple: 

Gather after work on the last 
Friday of the month. Stick to- 
gether. If you’re at the front, 
you decide where the mass 
goes next. If you’re at the 
back, help stragglers keep 
up. If you’re in the middle, 
just ride, or, if you want, pro- 
tect other bikers from cross-traffic. No one and everyone 
is in charge. It’s an “organized coincidence.” And it works. 

Flash mobs operate by the same logic. The call for a 2008 
flash mob pillow fight on Wall Street consisted of two rules: 
Bring a pillow, and don’t hit anybody who doesn’t also have a pillow. 
Enough said! 


“If you hit on 
the right rules, 
they can lead 
to a surprisingly 
robust, effective 
and beautiful 
happening.” 


PRINCIPLE: Simple rules can have grand results 


Related: 



These kind of efforts work well on the Internet as well. Think 
of the “we are the 99%” tumblr. The invitation was simple: 
take a picture of yourself holding a sign that describes your 
situation — for example, “I am a student with $25,000 in 
debt.” Below that, write “I am the 99 percent.” The resulting 
tapestry of voices became an eloquent statement of solidarity. 


TACTICS 

Distributed action p. 26 
Flash mob p. 46 
Mass street action p. 68 
Occupation p. 78 
Artistic vigil p. 10 

PRINCIPLES 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 

Enable, don't command p. 132 

No one wants to watch a drum circle p. 156 

This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 18 8 

Delegate p. 122 

We are all leaders p. 202 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
The social cure p.264 


A carnival protest might succeed with an “anything goes” rule 
set, because, well, it’s a carnival. A more politically focused 
mass street action see CASE: Citizen’s Posse or viral campaign 
of distributed actions see CASE: Billionaires for Bush, however, 
often needs a stronger framework. The nature of your action, 
its complexity, and the degree of risk will determine the exact 
rules required. 


CASE STUDIES 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Citizens' Posse p. 300 
Critical Mass web 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Virtual streetcorners p. 388 
Small gifts p. 360 


HOW THE OPPOSITE IS EQUALLY TRUE: Simple rules, no matter how 
well chosen, won’t magically do all the work on their own. Of- 
ten, conveners (folks who make the invitation and set the rules) 
have to stage manage all along the way to keep the seemingly 
organic process going. The right set of simple rules can get you 
most of the way there, though, and the “there” might be some- 
where you never could have planned or imagined. 


1 Boids, Background and update, Craig Reynolds, 1986 - http://www.red3d.com/cwr/boids 


PRINCIPLE: Simple rules can have grand results 



PRINCIPLE : 


tay on message 


IN SUM 

When we stay on message, we 
communicate exactly what we 
want our audience to know. 
We create harmony between 
our words, visuals and actions 
and we deliver a clear, powerful 
and irresistible call to action. 

EPIGRAPH 

“What you do speaks so loudly I 
can’t hear what you are saying.” 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 


PRACTITIONERS 

smart Meme 
SPIN Project 
Beyond the Choir 
Ripple Strategies 
Artist Network of Refuse & Resist 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Beyond the Choir, “Grassroots 
Communications Tips'' 

http://trb.la/y7Baux 

smartMeme, “Resources'' 
http://www.smartmeme.org/ 
section. php?id=86 

The Spin Project, “Spin Works! A 
Media Guidebook for the Rest of Us" 

http://www.spinproject.org/ 
article. php?id=172 

Ritchie, Paul. Stay on Message. 
Vivid Publishing, 2010. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Celia Alario 


Message discipline is the art of 
communicating what you set 
out to communicate, clearly, 
memorably and consistently. 
Everything from your talking 
points for an interview to the 
slogans on your banner to the 
visuals you create for an event 
should all align to support your 
core message. 


“Message 
discipline is not 
the enemy 
of creativity. 
Far from it” 


WHY MESSAGE DISCIPLINE MATTERS: 


It works: When you’re on message, you’re more likely to 
reach your audience and move them to action. 

It honors your group process: You’ve worked hard with your 
group to determine what needs to be communicated. 
Staying on message honors that hard work and strategic 
thinking, communicating only what all of you have agreed 
is the right message. 

Make it stick: Say one thing and say it well. The average 
person needs exposure to multiple sensory impressions of a 
message before it sinks in. When you practice message dis- 
cipline, the consistency of your message helps it to make 
it stick. 

Avoid static in the channel: Anything you say or do can be 

used against you in the court of public opinion, so make 
sure your words and actions are in sync with your group’s 
message. Strip away any of the clutter that could be static 
in the channel. Remember: less is more. 


HOWTO ACHIEVE IT: 


In interviews: Spokesfolks should practice the ABC’s: ac- 
knowledge the question, build a bridge from the question to 
your talking points; and communicate your message. 


178 


PRINCIPLE: Stay on message 


Example: 


Related: 


A “That’s a great question” or “I’m glad you asked 
that.” 

B “I think the important issue is...” or “The real 
question is...” 

C Insert your clear, concise, powerfully worded 
message. 

In our visuals and actions: When designing your action, 
imagine a photo of it — image only, no caption. Could 
that photo communicate your message? If your audience 
could see you from afar but not hear you, would they get 
your message? How can you increase that possibility? See 
THEORY: Action logic. 


PRINCIPLES 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Do the media’s work for them p. 124 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Think narratively p. 186 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Balance art and message p. 100 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 

The propaganda model p. 2 56 


Inventory your event: Everything your audience sees or 
hears at your action is inevitably a part of your message, so 
pay attention to details. What are your spokesfolks wear- 
ing? Are they drinking out of a Styrofoam cup? A bit of 
mindfulness as your event unfolds can insure the impact 
you desire. 


Message discipline is not the enemy of creativity. Far from 
it. Placards can have different messages. Each spokesperson 
can share a sound bite that reflects their own unique experi- 
ence. But when you are “on message,” all elements reinforce 
your core message. Each action element or interview response 
stands on its own, successfully delivering a strong message to 
your audience with clarity, consistency and credibility. 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: A sound bite will never cover everything 
you want to say. It may be true that decades of financial irre- 
sponsibility or hundreds of years of colonial oppression got us 
into this mess, but part of the art of message discipline is tam- 
ing the urge to unpack all those details each time you speak. 
Keep your core message simple and crisp, and recognize that 
it’s just the opening volley in your work on this issue. 


PRINCIPLE: Stay on message 


179 


gN PRINCIPLE : 

wTake leadership from the 
most impacted 


IN SUM 

Effective activism requires 
providing appropriate 
support to, and taking 
direction from, those who 
have the most at stake. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Ruckus Society 
Indigenous Environmental Network 
Movement Generation 
Peace Brigades International 
Design Studio for Social Intervention 
Iraq Veterans Against the War 
Los Angeles Poverty Department 
Mitch Snyder 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Caron Atlas, ed. Arts & Democracy 
Project. People Who Live and 
Work in Multiple Worlds. Full Circle 
Color. 2011 Available on line: 

http://www.statevoices.org/system/ 

files/A%2526DBridgeBook.pdf 

Sheila Wilmot, Taking Responsibility, 
Taking Direction: White Anti-Racism 
in Canada. Arbeiter Ring, 2006. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


We’re all familiar with liberal 
do-gooder arrogance — the 
kind that stems from having 
the luxury of choosing from 
a salad bar of causes because 
none are immediately con- 
straining their lives, or assum- 
ing that because you studied 
an issue in a university, you’re 
an expert. Avoid being that 
person: cultivate humility and 
take direction and leadership 
from those most affected by an 
issue. 

Because people on the receiving end of great injustices 
have to live with the consequences of campaigns that seek to 
address those injustices, they have the most to gain from vic- 
tory — and the most to lose if something goes wrong. They’re 
also the best equipped to know, and to articulate, workable 
solutions to their problems. A campaign that ignores or mini- 
mizes their knowledge and voices could easily do more harm 
than good. 

Accepting guidance from another isn’t always easy for peo- 
ple who themselves identify as leaders. Self-identified “lead- 
ers” sometimes rush in too quickly, confident they’ve got the 
answer while their preconceptions and prejudices blind them 
to the organic answers all around them. We can mitigate 
these blind-spots by being intentional about respecting the 
process and cultivating accountability. 

Accountability can be a scary concept for activists, but it’s 
best to think of it as a proactive process that we walk together, 
rather than a standard that is either achieved or not. 

The booklet Organizing Cools the Planet outlines four basic 
principles for cultivating accountability: 

Transparency means being clear about your politics, orga- 
nizational structure, goals, desires and weaknesses. The 



The Accountability Cycle. Artist: Joshua Kahn Russell. 


180 


PRINCIPLE: Take leadership from the most impacted 


point here is to be as open as possible about your perspec- 
tives and motivations. 

Participation is about actively and equitably engaging with 
folks about the decisions that affect them. 

Reflection and deliberation means that we actively open up 
conversation to re-evaluate where we’re headed. It happens 
after participation, but once it’s begun, it is a continuous 
thread that is woven throughout the experience. 

Response is the ability to make amendments and adjust- 
ments to issues raised by Reflection and deliberation. 

However, accountability is not our goal; collaboration is our 
goal. Accountability is the pathway we walk. The cycle above 
moves us toward increasingly successful collaborations. Don’t 
be discouraged if collaboration is difficult at first. Trust takes 
time. Be forgiving of yourself and others; we all make mis- 
takes see THEORY: Anti-oppression. 

The Ruckus Society’s experience with this principle is in- 
structive. Ruckus is a network of direct action trainers and 
coordinators. After years of grappling with the problematic 
dynamic of “parachuters” coming into people’s communities 
from the outside, Ruckus has developed a protocol where they 
only go where they’re asked and prioritize long-term relation- 
ship building. Their “Ruckus Action Framework” is a great 
reference tool to use when building a similar protocol within 
your group. 

Taking leadership from the most impacted is a great op- 
portunity to learn from and support impacted groups in their 
struggles. It can be one of the most profound and rewarding 
experiences of activism. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Boycott web 
Trek p. 90 

Eviction blockade p. 44 
Direct action p. 32 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 

PRINCIPLES 

Challenge patriarchy as you organize p. 108 
Praxis makes perfect p.162 
Consider your audience p. 118 
!Ne are all leaders p. 202 

THEORIES 

Environmental justice p. 228 
Pedagogy of the oppressed p. 246 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 
Trail of Dreams p. 384 


1 Hilary Moore and Joshua Kahn Russell, Organizing Cools the Planet (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011). 

2 The framework is reproduced on page 54 of Organizing Cools the Planet, available for download 
at http://organizingcoolstheplanet.wordpress.com/get-copies-of-ocp/. 


PRINCIPLE: Take leadership from the most impacted 


PRINCIPLE : 

wTake risks, but take care 


IN SUM 

Needlessly endangering 
the safety of you or the 
people around you hurts the 
movement. Don’t sacrifice 
care of self or others for the 
sake of being “hardcore.” 

EPIGRAPH 

“Martyrdom is a 
fascist tendency.” 

-Gopal Dayanenni 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Ya Basta Association 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

RANT Trainers Collective, “Resources" 

http://rantcollective.net/article. 

php?list=type&type=17 

Ruckus Society, “Training & 
Action Support” 

http://ruckus.org/article. 

php?list=type&type=64 

M/or Resisters League, “Nonviolence 
Training: Nonviolent Action Preparation ” 

http://www.warresisters.org/node/1277 

Alliance of Community Trainers, 
“Nonviolent Direct Action Training 
and Support” 

http://trainersalliance.org 

Destructables, “Copwatch: 
Know Your Rights!" 

http://destructables.org/node/85 

Destructables, “Affinity Groups" 

http://destructables.org/node/54 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Joshua Kahn Russell 


182 


Direct action is a tool that op- 
pressed people have used to 
build their power throughout 
history. When communities 
don’t have billions of dollars to 
spend, they leverage risk. They 
put their bodies, freedom, and 
safety on the line. 

Direct action carries some 
inherent risk. That’s the whole 
idea. Designing an action is 
therefore about minimizing 
that risk in a way that is ac- 
countable to participants, the 
community, yourself, and the 
movement. When activists let 
the romance of confrontation 
overshadow meticulous care in 
action planning, they may put 
others in harm’s way, or may leave the movement to deal with 
the consequences of their risky behavior. 

A good action planner distinguishes between the risks she 
can (and should) control and the ones she cannot, and clari- 
fies to all participants what the potential consequences may be. 
Thorough action planning is a responsibility you have to the 
people around you. Even if you plan well, if action-day comes 
and the situation is not what you expected, don’t be afraid to 
call it off. Better to hold off and execute the action well another 
day than get into something your group is unprepared for. 

The Ruckus Society pamphlet, A Tiny Blockades Book, out- 
lines a number of key considerations you should keep in mind 
in planning your action: 

• Not everyone is taking the same risks. Race, class, 
gender identity (real and perceived), age, appearance, 
immigration status, physical ability, being perceived 
as a “leader,” all change your relationship to the ac- 
tion; i.e. the risks of violence and arrest by the police 
and the potential legal and economic consequences 



Trainers Daniel Hunter and Joshua Kahn Russell facilitate 
a nonviolent direct action training for the anti-fracking 
movement in Nov 2011. 


PRINCIPLE: Take risks , but take care 


of the action. Also remember that there are power 
dynamics within your action group. Pretending that 
they do not exist or ignoring them “for the good of 
the action,” can compromise your ability to execute 
well, increasing risks... 

• Some devices increase the risk of injury simply by 
design: U-locking your neck to a fifty-five gallon drum 
filled with concrete means that any attempt to move 
the drum could snap your neck. That is the point ■ — you 
create this situation on purpose, or not at all . . . 

• This kind of gear increases the “staying power” of your 
action by creating a deep decision dilemma see PRIN- 
CIPLE for the opposition. . . But if you are lying down 
in front of a truck and the driver is not aware that you 
are there, then there is no decision dilemma, and no 
action logic see PRINCIPLE: Action logic. That is not di- 
rect action, it is an accident waiting to happen. 

• . . .The best actions are the ones where we get to stay as 
long as we want and the action ends on our terms — not 
in arrest or injury. 

• Practice. Practice. Practice. The more you practice, the 
safer you will be and the more effective your action will be. 

Some tactics should never be attempted without a thor- 
ough safety plan and skill-level assessment, such as a technical 
(climbing) banner hang where a fall can often prove fatal. 
Direct action is not a game. 

Be humble. Understand that Beautiful Trouble is intended 
to be a broad toolkit, not a direct action training manual. If you 
want to design a direct action, get the proper training (see the 
attached list of groups) . 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 
Banner hang p. 12 
Occupation p. 78 
Sit-in web 

Eviction blockade p. 44 
Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Infiltration p. 64 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Public filibuster p. 86 

PRINCIPLES 

Anyone can act p. 98 
We are all leaders p. 202 
Pace yourself p. 158 

THEORIES 

Anti-oppression p. 212 
Points of intervention p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Occupy Wall Street web 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Some schools of civil disobedience (for 
example, Gandhian civil disobedience) emphasize that “our 
suffering can touch the hearts of our adversaries,” and there- 
fore build prolongedjail sentences or physical harm into their 
action logic. This is a planned orientation to the action, and 
not a license for recklessness or martyrdom. 


PRINCIPLE: Take risks, but take care 


183 


XfiX PRINCIPLE : 

wTeam up with experts 


(but don’t become “the expert"] 


IN SUM 

Cultivating a fluid, symbiotic 
relationship between activists 
and experts is key to organizing 
effective interventions 
into complex issues. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Brooke Singer 


Experts can be terribly helpful co-conspirators and there are 
plenty of them out there to befriend. So go ask one for help. 
Why? An expert can be a great source of powerful, actionable 
information or can save you much embarrassment by pointing 
out flaws in your approach. An expert can help you do some- 
thing you don’t know how to do or gain access to something that 
requires credentials. An expert can put you in contact with even 
more experts. And an expert can introduce new audiences to 
your work. 

Choose an expert whose work is aligned with your mission to 
increase your chance of a positive response. If the response is no, 
then simply move on to the next. (Remember: there are many 
experts in this world!). Experts often respond favorably because 
they secretly wish they could act like independent artists and 
activists like you. Experts tend to work within established institu- 
tions and are beholden to power structures that typically limit 
speech and action. For that reason, it’s important to be respect- 
ful of the limits of what they can say, do, or sign their name to. 

As you continue to work on your project or campaign, you 
might find that people start treating you like the expert. 
People, you notice, are really listening to what you have to say. You 
might be invited to give a talk or a journalist calls for a quote. A 
“mediagenic” project propels your cause, bringing your message 
to the widest possible audience. Fantastic! Use the attention to 
your advantage. 

But beware of getting too comfortable in the role of expert. 
Remain tactical. Construct your environment and apply pres- 
sure as needed. If your job is done or the project has run its 
course, then don’t linger at the mic. Reap the benefits of acting 
fast and freely, then disappear. Experts have made a long-term 
commitment and are good at sustainability; they choose their 
territory and stick it out, for better or worse. Activists and experts 
are simpatico but not interchangeable. 

As a tactician, your job is to take risks. Generate a lot of ideas, 
prototypes or situations to see what works. Don’t worry, good 
ideas have the tendency to stick, whether you see them through 
or others pick up where you left off. 


184 


PRINCIPLE: Know your cultural terrain 



— Ani DiFranco 



ink narratively 


IN SUM 

Sometimes the best response 
to a powerful enemy is 
a powerful story. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Iraq Veterans Against the War [IVAW] 
Mitch Snyder 
Cindy Sheehan 
Eve Ensler 

Los Angeles Poverty Department 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

smart Meme, “The Battle of 
the Story Worksheet" 

http://www.smartmeme.org/downloads/ 

sMbattleofthestoryworksheet.pdf 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Doyle Canning 
Patrick Reinsborough 


As much as we’d like to believe that human beings are ra- 
tional actors making decisions based on a sober weighing 
of the facts, cognitive science reminds us that we are nar- 
rative animals that apprehend the world through stories. 
We make decisions more with our guts than our heads, 
and the facts alone are seldom enough to move pub- 
lic opinion. Therefore, social actors are constandy waging 
a “battle of the story” to shape public perception. 



Fairytale re purposed. Art by Kip Lyall. 


The unequal nature of our media and communications sys- 
tems see THEORY: The propaganda model means that moneyed 
interests will always have more access to the airwaves — but 
that doesn’t mean their story will be more creative or com- 
pelling. We can make up some of that difference, not just by 
becoming master storytellers, but by thinking narratively. By 
paying attention to how story and power are always interwoven, 
we can better understanding how political power operates, 
and also how we can contest it. 

Thinking narratively means we’re also strategizing narra- 
tively and listening narratively. When designing our actions 
and campaigns we need to step outside our own perspective 


PRINCIPLE: Think narratively 


to analyze how the issue is perceived by others who don’t share 
our assumptions. (Remember, people respond to a story not 
so much because it is true, but because they find it meaning- 
ful.) We need to consider our audience see PRINCIPLE, and 
build our campaign narrative out of the core building blocks 
that make for a good story. Here are five to keep in mind: 

Conflict 

What is the problem or conflict being addressed? How is it 
framed, and what does that frame leave out? 

Characters 

This can be a profound organizing question: Who are 
“we”? Who are the other characters in the story? Do the 
characters speak for themselves or is someone speaking on 
their behalf see PRINCIPLE: Lead with sympathetic characters ? 

Imagery 

What powerful images can help convey the story? Is there 
a metaphor or analogy that could describe the issue? A 
good story uses imagery and evocative language to show us 
what’s at stake rather than tell the audience what to think 

see PRINCIPLE: Show, don’t tell. 

Foreshadowing 

What is our vision of resolution to the conflict? What is 
our solution to the problem? How do we evoke that de- 
sired resolution without, as it were, giving the end away? 

see TACTIC: Prefigurative intervention. 

Assumptions 

Every story is built on unstated assumptions. Sometimes 
the best way to challenge a competing story is to expose 
and challenge its unstated assumptions see PRINCIPLE: 
Make the invisible visible. 

These five elements of story can be used together to conduct a 
narrative power analysis on a dominant narrative or as scaffold- 
ing to construct a narrative of change see THEORY: Narrative 
power analysis. Fleshing out these elements as we plan out our 
campaigns can also give us insights into strategic opportuni- 
ties for action or intervention. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Banner hang p. 12 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Media-jacking p. 12 

PRINCIPLES 

Seek common ground p. 170 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Reframe p. 1 68 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Whose tea party? p. 392 
Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
The salt march p. 354 
Harry Potter Alliance p. 322 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 


PRINCIPLE: Think narratively 



is ain’t the Sistine Chapel 


IN SUM 

Sky-high artistic expectations 
can not only slow you 
down, but can also critically 
impair execution of your 
tactic and strategy. 

EPIGRAPH 

“We have no art. We do 
everything as well we can.” 

-Balinese saying 

PRACTITIONERS 

Bread and Puppet Theater 
Art and Revolution 
Women's Action Coalition [WAC] 
Teatro Campesino 
Washington Action Group 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Kershaw, Baz and Coult, Tony. 
Engineers of the Imagination. UK: 
Welfare State International, 1990. 

Ruckus Society, “Creative Direct 
Action Visuals Manual” 

http://www. ruckus.org/article. php?id=305 

Ruby, K. Wise Fool Basics: 
A Handbook of Our Core Techniques. 

Son Francisco, 1992. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 



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Semi-anonymous internationally renowned street artist JR is famous for his wheat-pastings of his photographs. This work 
is often done haphazardly and illegally, but the faces he pastes help to put a human face on the walls of ghetto areas - 
and, even for the short time before they are taken down, provide a source of community empowerment and unity. 

As artists, we often have the desire to produce the most beau- 
tiful, provocative and breathtaking piece of art we can. This 
can be a wonderful thing — sometimes. Other times, it’s 
more important to get something out into the world that’s just 
beautiful enough to do the job, and then move on to strategic 
necessities. 

Here are a few cases when seeking perfection could back- 
fire on you: 

• When building community is a key goal of your project, 
creating a high bar of perfection can discourage broad 
participation. 

• When you have that Oh shit, it has to be done in 24 hrs! or 
We need a small army to get all this done! moment of panic, it 
might be better to wrap it up and move on to other tasks. 

• When you are out of money or other resources, or on the 
verge of depriving other essential parts of your action of 
being funded or resourced. 


PRINCIPLE: This ain’t the Sistine Chapel 



• When the banner or prop will be viewed from hundreds of 
feet away or is not the centerpiece of the action. 

• When the prop will be smashed as part of the action or 
taken into custody by the cops. 

In short, if it’s in your strategic interest to spend all your 
time and/or money on the “artfulness” of your action, then 
go right ahead and do it. But if painting the Sistine Chapel 
undermines your effectiveness, then do only what is strategi- 
cally warranted and save your sanity and energy. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Street theater web 
Artistic vigil p. 10 
Flash mob p. 46 
Mass street action p. 68 
Guerrilla projection p.52 
Human banner p. 56 

PRINCIPLES 

Balance art and message p. 100 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 

Stay on message p. 178 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Make it funny web 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

THEORIES 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 

CASE STUDIES 

Teddy-bear catapult p. 380 
Public Option Annie p. 346 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 


The Cheap Art campaign of the Bread and Puppet Theater Company, housed in [and exemplified by] this repurposed 
broken-down bus, promotes a populist DIY approach to art-making. 


HOW THE OPPOSITE IS EQUALLY TRUE: There are times when qual- 
ity really does matter, and an appropriate attention to detail 
will get you the respect and the response you desire. 


PRINCIPLE: This ain't the Sistine Chapel 


/g\ PRINCIPLE : 

' ‘Turn the tables 


IN SUM 

Sometimes the most compelling 
way to expose an injustice 
is to flip it around and visit 
it upon the powerful. 

EPIGRAPH 


Remember the great scene from “Erin Brockovich” where the 
hero brings a glass of contaminated water to a meeting with 
the companies her clients have accused of contaminating 
their drinking water. “You claim this water is perfectly safe to 
drink?” she says. “Okay, drink this,” and she places the glass 
of water before them. When they refuse, the injustice of the 
situation is laid bare for all to see. She has “turned the tables.” 


“Make the enemy live up to 
their own book of rules.” 

-Saul Alinsky 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
Reclaim the Streets 
More Gardens! Coalition 
Erin Brockovich 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Briarpatch Magazine. “Ten straight 
questions: Learning about the Hetero- 
sexuals Among Us." March/April 2007. 

http://briarpatchmagazine.com/ 

articles/view/10-straight-questions 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mark Read 



A young girl turns the tables on an Israeli border guard in this iconic West Bank barrier mural by Banksy. 

People have an innate sense of fairness, but don’t always 
see the injustices happening around them. By taking an exist- 


190 


PRINCIPLE: Turn the tables 


ing unjust situation and dramatically flipping it back upon its 
source, you can highlight the inherent asymmetry and acti- 
vate people’s sense of fairness. Turning the tables like this can 
be an effective means of garnering public support as well as 
undercutting the moral authority of your target. 

Consider the “turning streets into gardens” action see 
CASE. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was attempting to sell 
off community gardens to developers, an action that would 
have displaced community groups and left the city with fewer 
places for children to play. Community members were rightly 
outraged, though initially they had a hard time gaining pub- 
lic support. To turn the tables, the activists took over a city 
block in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and turned it into a 
vibrant civic space for conversation, education, and celebra- 
tion. Their message was “Okay, if you can kick us out of our 
gardens, then we can kick you off your streets.” 

Greenpeace has consistently made use of this tactic to 
shed light on toxic dumping. In 2003 they partnered with 
families and victims of the massive chemical plant disaster in 
Bhopal, India and attempted, unsuccessfully, to deliver seven 
barrels of that toxic waste to the Dow Chemical company HQ 
in Amsterdam. The action spoke directly to basic questions of 
fairness and power: “If you can dump this toxic sludge on the 
people of India, then we can dump it back on you.” Why is one 
act illegal while its analogue goes unpunished? 

Turning the tables poses this question in a pointed, common- 
sense way, exposing hypocrisy and injustice for all to see. It’s 
an easy frame for mainstream media to grasp, and difficult 
for them to distort. For ah these reasons, it has the potential 
to generate support for your cause, increase pressure on your 
target, and enable you to win concessions. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Identity correction p. 60 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Direct action p. 32 
Hoax p. 54 
Carnival protest web 

PRINCIPLES 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 1 66 
The real action is your 
target's reaction web 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Reframe p. 168 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 

CASE STUDIES 

Streets into gardens p. 368 
Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
Whose tea party? p. 392 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: An attempt to turn the tables can back- 
fire on you if your analogy is inaccurate, indirect or insincere. 
Sometimes even a clear analogy may be undermined by pow- 
erful cultural assumptions. For instance, police have broad 
cultural legitimacy as ethical agents of authority. Whether 
it’s deserved or not, this is the reality within which we oper- 
ate. Trying to turn the tables by building an equation around 
police violence vs. protester violence is going to be an uphill 
climb. Turning the tables must always take into account 
cultural context and existing frames of understanding. 


PRINCIPLE: Turn the tables 


PRINCIPLE : 

w Use others' prejudices against them 


IN SUM 

Your enemy’s prejudices about 
you are a weakness that you 
can exploit to your advantage. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Greenpeace 
ACT UP 
Justice for Janitors 
SNCC 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Salt of The Earth. Directed 
by Herbert J. Biberman. 1954. 

Mary Elizabeth King. A Quiet 
Revolution: The First Palestinian 
Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance. 
New York: Nation Books, 2007 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


A prejudice is a mental shortcut that leads a person to make 
assumptions about others — assumptions that are often false 
in predictable, and therefore useful, ways. Sexism, racism, 
homophobia, ageism — all the -isms and the stereotypes 
associated with them — can be used in one way or another. 
For example: 

Sexism 1 

Want to know when that shipment of nuclear waste is going to 
be docking so you can shut down the port at the right time? 
Maybe someone posing as a distraught, pregnant girlfriend 
whose guy is on the ship could make some calls and get the 
info. 

Sexism 2 

Need to distract a security guard so you can complete your 
action? Activists in D.C. planned to dump a ton of bloodied 
scallop shells on the doorstep of Shell Oil to commemorate 
the anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death and pressure the 
company to withdraw from Ogoniland, Nigeria. One cute 
young woman posing as a lost tourist was all it took to distract 
the guard and provide enough time for the truck to position 
itself, dump its load and drive off. 

Ageism 

Need to get information through enemy lines? During the 
First Intifada or uprising in Palestine, 1987-1993, Israel tried 
to quash the non-violent resistance in many ways, including 
cutting communication and limiting travel between Palestin- 
ian cities. In order to get the word out to coordinate strikes, 
boycotts, and other actions, youth were enlisted to carry mem- 
orized information between cities. The Israeli soldiers let the 
kids through, never imagining they were doing the real work 
of connecting the resistance. 

Racism 

Need to put more pressure on a target from unexpected di- 
rections? Saul Alinsky relates a classic example of using rac- 
ism to win in Chicago in the 1950s: In a campaign to improve 


192 


PRINCIPLE: Use others’ prejudices against them 


slum conditions in an organized black ghetto, organizers took 
the fight beyond their neighborhoods into the lily-white sub- 
urb where the slumlord lived. The presence of black men and 
women picketing outside his house led to a hood of phone 
calls from the neighbors who didn’t care at all about the slums 
and would not have gotten involved otherwise, but wanted to 
keep their own neighborhood segregated, and so pressured 
the slumlord into capitulating. 


Classism 

Need to find your way into a 
corporate office or exclusive 
event? Many a time the most 
radical, hairy and scruffily 
adorned activists have shaved, 
ironed and primped their way 
into a situation that would 
have been off limits to those 
in scrappy activist garb. You 
know you are hardcore when 
you will cut your hair, or wear 
pantyhose, to insure the suc- 
cess of an action! 


“Only deploy 
stereotypes in 
situations where 
the bigot eventually 
realizes that it was 
his own prejudices 
that put him in 
a compromised 
position ” 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Beware of simply reinforcing negative 
stereotypes. Try to only deploy stereotypes in situations where 
the bigot eventually realizes that it was his own prejudices that 
put him in a compromised position. Also, try to be transpar- 
ent within your own work group about what forces are at play. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Invisible theater p. 82 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Direct action p. 32 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Advanced leafleting p. 8 
Strategic nonviolence p. 168 

PRINCIPLES 

The real action is your 

target’s reaction web 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Challenge patriarchy as 

you organize p. 108 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Reframe p. 168 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Anti-oppression p. 212 

CASE STUDIES 

Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 
Public Option Annie p. 346 
Justice for Janitors p. 326 
Modern Day Slavery Museum p. 338 


1 Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (Vintage Bocks, 1971), 144. 


PRINCIPLE: Use others’ prejudices against them 


193 


/g\ PRINCIPLE : 

wllse the Jedi mind trick 


(a.k.a Confidence is contagious] 


IN SUM 

The Jedi mind trick worked 
for Luke Skywalker, 
and it can work for you, too. 

You just have to believe in 
yourself, and others will, too. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Whether you think you 
can, or you think you 
can’t - you’re right.” 

- Henry Ford 


PRACTITIONERS 

Abbie Hoffman 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Wookieepedia, “Mind Trick” 
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Mind_trick 

Video: “Kid Gives Inspiring Speech to 
All Children Learning to Ride a Bike" 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=c47otcg13Z8 

Destructables, “Evasion” 

http://destructables.org/node/62 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Samantha Corbin 


Aside from being able to move objects with your mind and 
having a retractable sword made out of freaking light (how 
cool is that??), the best thing about being a Jedi has got to be 
the mind trick. The ability to persuade with a calm voice and 
a finger wave, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” 
could prove indispensable in any number of beautiful trouble- 
making situations. 



H IN DSIGHT 

Those really were tlx droids you urre loo king for 


“Hindsight: Those really were the droids you were looking for." The Jedi mind trick can work not just on the Empire's 
storm troopers, but also on security guards, journalists and yourself. 


Good news: this hypnotic power of persuasion is actually 
within your reach. It springs from an innate authority, an irra- 
tional confidence that mystically bends the world to your will. 
Though this may not work on your bill collector (“I’m not the 
deadbeat you’re looking for”), it may work in convincing the 
mainstream media to cover your event or the police to leave 
you alone. You might even pass unchallenged through the front 
gate of a nuclear power plant, or take charge of a closed-door 


194 


PRINCIPLE: Use the Jedi mind trick 



meeting to which you weren’t 
invited. With the right attitude, 
much more becomes possible 
than you might have thought. 

With nothing more than 
confidence, an activist adept at 
the Jedi mind trick can make 
a security guard look the oth- 
er way, or convince thousands 
of people, including a BBC 
news anchor, that he is a DOW 
chemical spokesperson, or that 
it’s perfectly normal to wear a 
climbing helmet in the middle 
of a convention center and 
start climbing the scaffolding. 

Here are a couple of things 
to keep in mind as you prepare 
to break out the Jedi mind 
trick on an unsuspecting low- 
level functionary: 


“With nothing more 
than confidence, 
an activist adept at 
the Jedi mind trick 
can make a security 
guard look the 
other way, or 
convince thousands 
of people, including 
a BBC news 
anchor, that he is 
a DOW chemical 
spokesperson ” 


Know the rules, suspend the rules. The ability to trans- 
gress, trespass, or otherwise do what you shouldn’t with 
complete self-assurance, especially if challenged, carries 
its own power. 

Act like you belong (a.k.a. fake it ‘till you get kicked out). 

Authority is more performed than innate. We constantly 
interact with, and respond to, coded indicators of status 
and authority, making assumptions based on attitude, 
manner, dress, accent, friendliness, sexiness, and other 
cues. By understanding and playing on these indicators 
we can also co-opt the authority attached to them. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Infiltration p. 64 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Banner hang p. 12 
Hoax p. 54 
Direct action p. 32 

PRINCIPLES 

Use other people's prejudices 

against them p. 192 

Anyone can act p. 98 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it . 196 

Don't dress like a protester p. 126 

THEORIES 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Bidder 70 p. 290 

Streets into gardens p. 368 

Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 

Dow Chemical apologizes 

for Bhopal p. 318 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Beware the backlash. The Jedi mind trick 
wears off quickly, and tends to leave the unsuspecting dupe 
it was used on angry and embarrassed. No one likes to feel 
like they got tricked. Use this tactic only with people you’re 
unlikely to see again. To avoid unnecessary backlash, tell the 
truth as much as possible and let other people fill in their 
own assumptions. 


PRINCIPLE: Use the Jedi mind trick 


PI1INCIPLE : 

w Use the law, don't be afraid of it 


IN SUM 

Talk to more than one lawyer 
and pick the one whose 
advice you want to follow. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 


The law is a funny thing. Sometimes the Yes Men ask lawyers 
before we do anything particularly dangerous. We get one of 
two answers: “Don’t do it! It’s illegal. You’ll get sued! ” or “Awe- 
some! It’s probably legal, and besides, you’re righteous in the 
court of public opinion.” The “awesomes,” are almost always 
right for two reasons: 1) In the U.S. at least, the law does in 
fact protect freedom of speech to a very high degree (not al- 
ways a good thing: corporate 
lobbying is also considered 
free speech), and 2) corpora- 
tions don’t sue you because 
they know how it can blow back 
on them and they want to avoid 
having yet more egg on their 
big, blank, mechanical faces. 

In the Yes Men’s twelve years 
of activism, we’ve only been 
sued once. 

Corporations won’t sue you, but they may send you a cease- 
and-desist letter. Rather than a cause to worry, this can be a 
great boon. C&D letters are letters from lawyers that threaten 
you with a lawsuit, usually in highfalutin’ legal language. They 
carry absolutely no legal weight and can be ignored — though 
of course you then take the risk that the lawyers will follow 
through. Almost always, however, the C&D letter, while not 
exactly a bluff, is a formality. For example, companies have 
trademarks, and in order to keep them they have to demon- 
strate that they’re making efforts to defend them — and a 
C&D letter qualifies as evidence of such an effort. 

If you receive a C&D letter, it’s a tremendous opportunity 
to stretch out the story and get an additional wave of news 
coverage for your action. First thing we do when we receive a 
C&D letter is reach out to a lawyer we trust and see what she 
thinks — though we’re always prepared to ignore her advice. 
Then, we consider whether there’s anything funny we can do 
with the letter. For example, after we put up the coalcares.org 
site, we received a C&D letter from Peabody Energy, Amer- 
ica’s largest coal producer. Instead of taking down the site, 
we responded in a way that enlarged the issue. It’s not just 


“We subsequently 
received three 
more cease-and- 
desist letters , 
which we also 
ignored ” 


196 


PRINCIPLE: Use the law, don't be afraid of it 


Peabody that’s giving kids asthma, we noted, but all Ameri- 
can coal companies. So we removed Peabody’s name from the 
site and added the names of all the other coal companies. We 
subsequently received three more C&D letters, which we also 
ignored. 

Lawyers are not to be feared, though the same can’t always 
be said for the law. If you are, for example, pretending to be 
Exxon-Mobil at a petroleum conference, there is no need to 
break character when the conference’s private security lock 
you in a small room and cross-examine you (trust us on this 
one) . But when the real police arrive, you may as well tell them 
honestly what you are up to. They may even turn out to be on 
your side, especially if you seem reasonable in contrast to the 
exasperated conference organizer or private security goon. In 
general, you should avoid lying to the police unless you have a 
really really good reason. 

Remember: Don’t be afraid of suits, law- or otherwise. 


HOW THE OPPOSITE IS EQUALLY TRUE: Sometimes corporations 
do sue activists, especially those with limited resources to de- 
fend themselves. That’s called a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation 
Against Public Participation) suit. However, usually, all you 
really need to do to avoid any such corporate shenanigans is 
be ready to widely publicize the brouhaha, and hurl the afore- 
mentioned egg smack dab onto the corporate forehead. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Hoax p. 54 
Infiltration p. 64 
Identity correction p. 60 

PRINCIPLES 

Take risks but take care p. 182 

The real action is your 

target's reaction web 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Put your target in a 

decision dilemma p. 166 

Make it funny web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Points of interventions p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 

Dow Chemical apologizes 
for Bhopal p. 318 
McLibel web 

Yes Men pose as Exxon web 


PRINCIPLE: Use the law, don't be afraid of it 


XfiX PRINCIPLE : 

w Use the power of ritual 


IN SUM 

Rituals like weddings, funerals, 
baptisms, exorcisms and vigils 
are powerful experiences 
for participants. By adapting 
sacred and symbolic elements 
you can use the power of 
ritual to give your actions 
greater depth and power. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Ritual and ceremony in 
their due times kept the 
world under the sky and the 
stars in their courses.” 

-Terry Pratchett 



The power of ritual, as in the candlelight vigil above, provides an outlet for both individual catharsis and collective 
expression. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Living Theater 
Women In Black 
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 
Suzanne Lacy 
Artists Network of Refuse & Resist 
Rivane Neuenschwander 
Billionaires for Bush 
Abbie Hoffman 
Reverend Billy 
Arlington West 
“I Dream Your Dream” 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

/ W/sh Your Wish @ The New Museum 
http://www.newmuseum.org/rivane/ 
Memorial Ritual and Art @ MICA 

http://trb.la/zgnZFF 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


Rituals can connect us to the deepest truths of why politics 
matters. As anyone who has participated in a candlelight vigil 
will know, sometimes the act of quietly bearing witness to an 
injustice can carry more moral force than railing against it. 
A ritual can also give an otherwise mundane political gath- 
ering a stronger storyline, such as the 2011 protest of mort- 
gage fraud at Chase Bank in New York City, where hundreds 
of members of faith communities and several ministers per- 
formed an exorcism on a bank “possessed by the demons of 
selfishness and avarice.” 

The ritual you choose need not be elaborate for it to have 
a powerful impact. You can imbue your political street theater 
with some of the power of ritual just by borrowing its rhythms. 
Imagine two characters on the street: a military general and a 
politician, slowly tossing a huge sack of money back and forth 
across a wide expanse. In between, a regular Joe, sitting for- 
lornly, watches the sack sail back and forth. Nearby, a spokesper- 
son hands out a fact sheet that tells the rest of the story. Often 
this kind of nonverbal, ritual-like performance, which repeats a 
simple but visually arresting motion, can be more powerful and 
effective than a full-length skit crammed with facts and figures. 


198 


PRINCIPLE: Use the power of ritual 



“At its best , a ritual 
is a cathartic , 
transformative 
experience.” 


Ghost Bike shrines — old 
bikes whitewashed and decked 
with flowers stationed as memo- 
rials at urban crossroads where 
cyclists have been killed — are 
a haunting presence, protest 
sculpture and fitting memorial 
all rolled into one. 

Because they are such well-worn forms, rituals are ripe for 
mockery and comic adaptation, whether it’s the Billionaires 
for Bush doing a vigil for corporate welfare, or Reverend Billy 
brandishing a stuffed Mickey Mouse on a cross while doing 
an exorcism inside the Times Square Disney Store. In 1967, 
antiwar prankster Abbie Hoffman led 20,000 protesters in an 
attempt to levitate the Pentagon — the National Guard was 
under strict orders to never allow an unbroken chain of hands 
around the building. 

Our familiarity with ritual makes it a great format for self- 
organizing. A ritual provides a natural script and symbolism. 
Even complete strangers naturally fall into a rhythm around it. 
This is even true for recently invented rituals such as monthly 
Critical Mass bike rides or the yearly ritual of Buy Nothing 
Day. In more repressive environments, the sacredness of a 
ritual offers protection, or at least courage. Think of Catholic 
Mass in Stalinist Poland or death squad-era El Salvador. In 
the Iranian Revolution (of 1979, as well as the revolts in 2010), 
the funerals of martyrs killed at the last protest fueled the 
next round of protests in an accelerating cycle. 

At its best, a ritual is a cathartic, transformative experi- 
ence. At a bat mitzvah, a child crosses over into adulthood. 
At a funeral, mourners grieve and find closure. A ritual har- 
nessed to a political purpose should have an equally powerful 
effect, whether it is recommitting to a cause, finding courage, 
voicing dissent, or building trust. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Artistic vigil p. 10 
Image theater p. 62 
Guerrilla theater web 
Distributed action p. 26 
Trek p. 90 

PRINCIPLES 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Anger works best when you have 
the moral high ground p. 96 
Don't dress like a protester p. 126 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 

CASE STUDIES 

Trail of Dreams p. 384 
The salt march p. 354 


PRINCIPLE: Use the power of ritual 



se your radical fringe to shift 
the Overton window 


IN SUM 

The Overton window is the 
limit of what is considered 
reasonable or acceptable 
within a range of public policy 
options. Slide the window of 
acceptable debate by focusing 
attention on a position that is 
more radical than their own. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 
Greenpeace 
ACT UP 
Occupy Wall Street 
Paul Krassner 
Voina 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Jimmy McMillan of The Rent is Too 
Damn High Party in action 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=x4o-TeMHysO&feature=related 

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals: a 
practical primer for realistic radicals. 

USA. Vintage Books, 1971. 

Grist, “Occupy Wall Street can shake up 
a city-but can it create lasting change?," 
Greg Hanscom, November 18, 2011 

http://trb.la/xsK7HI 

The Oberlin Review, “Wall Street 
Demonstrators Challenge Centrist 
Consensus,” Will Rubenstein, 
November 20, 2011 

http://trb.la/yOJKbU 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Josh Bolotsky 


The various policy options available on a given issue can be 
roughly plotted on a spectrum of public acceptability, from 
unthinkable, to fringe, to acceptable, to common sense, to 
policy. The Overton window, named after Joseph Overton, a 
staffer for the center-right Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 
designates the range of points on the spectrum that are con- 
sidered part of a “sensible” conversation within public opin- 
ion and/or traditional mass media. 

The most important thing about the Overton window, 
however, is that it can be shifted to the left or the right, with 
the once merely “acceptable” becoming “popular” or even im- 
minent policy, and formerly “unthinkable” positions becom- 
ing the open position of a partisan base. The challenge for 
activists and advocates is to move the window in the direction 
of their preferred outcomes, so their desired outcome moves 
closer and closer to “common sense.” 

There are two ways to do this: the long, hard way and the 
short, easy way. The long, hard way is to continue making your 
actual case persistently and persuasively until your position 
becomes more politically mainstream, whether it be due to 
the strength of your rhetoric or a long-term shift in societal 
values. By contrast, the short, easy way is to amplify and echo 
the voices of those who take a position a few notches more 
radical than what you really want. 

For example, if what you actually want is a public health 
care option in the United States, coordinate with and pro- 
mote those pushing for single-payer, universal health care. 
If the single-payer approach constitutes the “acceptable left” 
flank of the discourse, then the public option looks, by com- 
parison, like the conservative option it was once considered 
back when it was first proposed by Orrin Hatch in 1994. 

This is Negotiating 101. Unfortunately, the right has been 
far ahead of the left in moving the Overton window in their 
desired direction for a long time. If anything, the left often 
plays it in the exact wrong way, actively policing and seeking 
to silence its radicals for fear that strong left positions will 
serve to discredit moderate left positions. The irony is that the 


PRINCIPLE: Use your radical fringe to shift the Overton window 


Related: 



TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 


PRINCIPLES 

Escalate strategically p. 134 
Reframe p. 168 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 


THEORIES 


Intellectuals and power p. 240 
The propaganda model p. 2 56 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 


CASE STUDIES 

The Nihilist Democratic Party p. 342 
Santa Claus army p. 358 
Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p. 318 
Battle in Seattle p. 286 


Jimmy McMillan, by running for governor of New York in 2010 on the “The Rent is Too Damn High" Party, effectively shifted 
the Overton window leftwards, thereby making it easier for more moderate candidates to address economic inequality. 


Overton window should actually be easier for progressives to 
play: if you look at the polling on issue after issue, from educa- 
tion to jobs to foreign policy, the actual majority stances tend 
to be to the left of the range of policy proposals on offer. 

POTENTIAL PITFALLS: Not all radical positions are effective in 
shifting the Overton window, so don’t just reach for any old 
radical idea. Ideally, the position you promote should carry 
logical and moral force, and must include some common 
ground with your own position — it needs to be along the 
same continuum of belief if it is to be effective. It also must 
not be so far out of the mainstream that it becomes toxic for 
anyone vaguely associated with it, or the backlash will in fact 
push the Window in the opposite of the desired direction. 


PRINCIPLE: Use your radical fringe to shift the Overton window 


201 




e are all leaders 


IN SUM 

An otherwise healthy distrust 
of hierarchy can lead to a 
negative attitude toward 
all forms of leadership. 
Actually, we want more 
leadership, not less. 

EPIGRAPH 

"They surrounded the boat, 
and when they lowered the 
gangplank, Sheriff McGray 
walked to the end of it and said, 
‘Who are your leaders here?’ 
And they shouted back with 
one voice: ‘We are all leaders 
here!’ Well, that scared the tar 
out of the law, you know...” 

-Utah Phillips, “Fellow workers'' 1 

PRACTITIONERS 

Alliance of Community Trainers 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Starhawk. The Empowerment Manual. A 
Guide for Collaborative Groups. 
Canada, New Society Publishers. 2011. 

Lakey, Lakey, Napier and Robinson. 
Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership. 
A Guide for Organizations in Changing 
Times. Philadephia, New Society, 1995. 

Coover, Deacon, Esser, Moore. 
Resource Manual for a Living Revolution. 

Movement for a New Society. 
Philadephia, New Society, 1978. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 


“It is important 
to distinguish 
between horizontal 
organization and 
disorganization ” 


What is the difference between saying “none of us is a lead- 
er” and saying “we are all leaders”? At first glance these two 
phrases may seem like two ways of saying the same thing, 
which is essentially, “We believe 
in organizing in a way that is 
more horizontal than vertical. 

We believe in equalizing par- 
ticipation and resisting social 
hierarchies.” But the word lead- 
ership can mean a lot of things, 
and not all involve the creation 
of hierarchies. Taking leadership 
can mean taking initiative on moving a project or task forward, 
or taking responsibility for recognizing what is needed, and step- 
ping up individually or collectively to do that thing. 

It is important, in other words, to distinguish between hor- 
izontal organization and disorganization, and to foster models 
of dispersed leadership that promote responsibility, account- 
ability and effectiveness. 

This is not just a matter of semantics. If we are part of a 
group that boasts of having no leaders, participants may be 
overly hesitant about stepping up to take initiative for fear of 
being seen as a “leader,” which would be a bad thing. If we re- 
ally want to change the world, we need more people stepping 
up to take initiative, not less. The more initiative we each take 
in our work together, the greater our collective capacity will 
be. Building our collective power is one of the most important 
challenges of grassroots organizing. 

We need to build a culture where we’re all invited to step 
up. This means stepping up in ways that make space for oth- 
ers to step up — where others feel invited to step up and take 
initiative, too. “Stepping up” can mean actively listening to 
and learning from others. It can mean taking time to rec- 
ognize and value many different forms of leadership in the 
group. And it can mean looking for and nurturing leadership 
potential in others, who may not feel entitled to step forward 
uninvited or unsupported. 

A culture that values healthy leadership is one that also 
prizes accountability, in which we are responsible for and ac- 


PRINCIPLE: We are all leaders 


countable to one another. But this focus on accountability 
must go hand-in-hand with a group culture that values lead- 
ership. Otherwise we may develop a “circular bring squad” 
mentality in which we waste our energy cutting each other 
down for taking initiative. 

We need a movement where we are constantly encourag- 
ing each other to step into our full potential and shine as a 
collective of leaders working together for a better world. Let’s 
all be leaders. Let’s be leaderful, not leaderless. 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Distributed action p. 26 
General strike p. 50 

PRINCIPLES 

Enable, don't command p. 132 
Challenge patriarchy as 
you organize p. 108 
Beware the tyranny of 
structurelessness p. 102 
Delegate p. 122 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORIES 

Anti-oppression p. 212 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 
Lysistrata project p. 330 
Justice for Janitors p. 326 


Occupy together. 


1 Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco, 1999 Fellow Workers [Audio CD]. Righteous Babe records: Buffalo, NY. 


PRINCIPLE: We are all leaders 


203 




;il>LE : 


rite your own PRINCIPLE 


IN SUM What’s the secret ? 


EPIGRAPH 


PRACTITIONERS 


FURTHER INSIGHT 


CONTRIBUTED BY 


204 


PRINCIPLE: Write your own PRINCIPLE 


Related: 


TACTICS 


POTENTIAL PITFALLS: 


THEORIES 


CASES 


The modular format of Beautiful Trouble allows the collection 
to expand endlessly to reflect new tactical breakthroughs, 
underrepresented areas of struggle and overlooked pearls 
of wisdom. 

Become part of Beautiful Trouble. Use this template to 
write up your own creative-activism insights. Submit your own 
module for publication on the Beautiful Trouble website here: 

http://beautifultrouble.org. 


PRINCIPLE: Write your own PRINCIPLE 


205 




CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS 


Big-picture ideas that help us 
understand how the world works and 
how we might go about changing it 


“Without revolutionary theory , there can be no revolutionary 
movement, comrade 

— VI. Lenin ( though he didn’t actually say the “comrade” part) 


Ever wish someone would take the most complex 
ideas from the likes of Brecht, Gramsci, Marx, 
Foucault & Co. and cook them down into fierce, 
accessible little nuggets of theory tailored to the 
pragmatic needs of the working revolutionary? 
Well, somebody did. Have at it. 



ction logic 


IN SUM 

Your actions should speak for 
themselves. They should make 
immediate, natural sense to 
onlookers. They should have an 
obvious logic to the outside eye. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Actions speak louder 
than words.” 

-Ruckus Society motto 


ORIGINS 

Civil rights movement, USA 

PRACTITIONERS 

SNCC 
Ruckus Society 
Greenpeace 

Design Studio for Social Intervention 
Mitch Snyder 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Canning, Doyle, and Patrick R einsborough. 
Reilmagining Change: An Introduction to 
Story-Based Strategy, smart Meme, 2009. 

http://trb. la/zOcsIF 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 
Joshua Kahn Russell 


Have you ever looked at a protest and wondered what the heck 
these people were so angry about? Perhaps it was a bunch of 
kids blockading an intersection. Who are they? What do 
they want ? 

With good action logic, nobody needs to ask those 
questions; an outsider can look at what you’re doing and 
immediately understand why you’re doing it. For example, 
people doing a tree-sit so the forest cannot be cut down — the 
logic is clear and obvious. The action speaks for itself. 

Action logic creates powerful stories that move hearts and 
change minds. Not only is it true that actions speak louder 
than words, but, particularly in a hostile media climate where 
activists are often flagrantly misrepresented, it’s important that 
our actions speak for themselves. It may sound paradoxical, 
but it often requires lots of thought and care to design actions 
that make intuitive sense. 

Civil disobedience actions — for example the lunch coun- 
ter sit-ins of the American civil rights movement — tend to 
have inherent action logic because their purpose is to violate 
an unjust law in order to highlight exactly that injustice. How- 
ever, other forms of direct action, which sometimes break laws 
unrelated to their goal, often need to do some extra work to 
achieve clear action logic. 

Communicative actions See PRINCIPLE: Be both expressive 

and instrumental also need to foster action logic. Camp Casey, 
where Cindy Sheehan camped outside Bush’s vacation ranch 
until he came out and explained for what “noble cause” her 
Iraq veteran son Casey had died, had powerful action logic. So 
did the single moms in Rhode Island who pressured a public 
housing official for a daycare center by not just sitting-in at 
his office, but bringing their kids with them and, for a few 
hours, turning his office into the daycare center they needed 
see CASE: Daycare sit-in. 

Most successful actions have this kind of inherent, trans- 
parent logic. They speak for themselves. When your action has 
this kind of clarity at its core, then no matter how the target 
responds or how things play out, the action will continue to 
make your point and make sense to observers. 


THEORY: Action logic 




In a perfect demonstration of action logic, mixed-race students in Jackson, Mississippi sit in at a segregated lunch- 
counter in 1960. Photo by Fred Blackwell. Image courtesy Library of Congress. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 
Sit-in web 

Mass street action p. 68 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

The real action is your target’s reaction web 

Think narratively p. 186 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 16 6 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

THEORIES 

Homo q & hamas p. 236 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: The lunch counter sit-ins during 
the civil rights movement had remarkable action logic. When 
legal segregation was enforced, black and white students 
violated the law by sitting at lunch counters and waiting to 
be served. Any outsider looking at the act immediately knew 
why they were there. They didn’t need to carry signs. In fact, 
their action foreshadowed victory and prefigured the world they 
wanted to live in: they were living the integration they wanted. 


CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Tar Sands Action p. 376 
Daycare center sit-in p. 316 
Camp Casey web 
Teddy bear catapult p. 380 
Whose Tea Party? p. 392 
The salt march p. 354 
The Trail of Dreams p. 384 
Citizen’s Posse p. 300 


THEORY: Action logic 


209 





THEORY: 

ienation effect 


IN SUM 

The alienation effect 
was Brecht’s principle of using 
innovative theatrical techniques 
to “make the familiar strange” 
in order to provoke a 
social-critical audience response. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Sometimes it’s more 
important to be human 
than to have good taste.” 

-Bertolt Brecht 

ORIGINS 

Bertolt Brecht, 1920-1930s Germany 


PRACTITIONERS 

Augusto Boat 
Peter Schumann 
Lars Von Trier 
Allan Kaprow 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Bertolt Brecht [Author], John Willett 
[Translator), Brecht on theater: The 
Development of an Aesthetic [New 
York: Hill and Wang ; 13th edition, 1977) 

L. M. Bogad, Tactical Performance: On 
the Theory and Practice of Serious Play. 
[forthcoming from NYU Press 2012). 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

L.M. Bogad 


210 


Bertolt Brecht, German leftist playwright and director, had 
nothing but disdain for the conventional, commercial “bour- 
geois” theater of his time. He considered it a “branch of the 
narcotics business.” Why? The theater of his time, like most 
Hollywood movies now, relied on emotional manipulation to 
bring about a suspension of disbelief for the audience, along 
with an emotional identification with the main character. 
Audience members were taken on an uncritical emotional 
roller coaster ride, crying when the main character cried, 
laughing when s/he laughed — identifying with him/her 
even when the character had nothing in common with them 
or their interests (working-class audiences swooningly identi- 
fying with a Prince of Denmark, for example) . 



Bertolt Brecht developed a set of theatrical techniques to subvert the emotional manipulations of bourgeois theater. 

Brecht saw that these audiences were manipulated by theater 
technology — beautiful, realistic sets, cleverly naturalistic 
lighting, the imaginary fourth wall, and most importantly, 


THEORY: Alienation effect 




emotionally effusive acting techniques, ffe soon watched with 
horror as the Nazi movement gained popular support in his 
country with its racist, xenophobic demagoguery, relying on 
similar emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation 
was, to him, Enemy Number One of human decency. 

It was in this context that Brecht developed his theory 
of Verfremdungseffekt, also known as V-effekt, alienation 
effect, or distantiation effect. (Important disclaimer: there 
is compelling evidence that many of Brecht’s greatest 
ideas were developed in uncredited cooperation with his 
artistic partners). 

The alienation effect attempts to combat emotional 
manipulation in the theater, replacing it with an entertaining 
or surprising jolt. For instance, rather than investing in or 
“becoming” their characters, they might emotionally step 
away and demonstrate them with cool, witty, and skillful 
self-critique. The director could “break the fourth wall” and 
expose the technology of the theater to the audience in amusing 
ways. Or a technique known as the social gest could be used 
to expose unjust social power relationships so the audience 
sees these relationships in a new way. The social gest is an exag- 
gerated gesture or action that is not to be taken literally but 
which critically demonstrates a social relationship or power 
imbalance. For example, workers in a corporate office may 
suddenly and quickly drop to the floor and kowtow to the CEO, 
or the women in a household may suddenly start to move in 
fast-motion, cleaning the house, while the men slowly yawn 
and loaf around. 

By showing the instruments of theater and how they can 
be manipulative — for example, the actor calling out “Cue the 
angry red spotlight!” before he shrieks with rage, or “Time for 
the gleeful violin” before dancing happily as the violinist joins 
him on stage, or visibly dabbing water on his eyes when he is 
supposed to cry . . . the audience can be entertained without 
being manipulated. Many of Brecht’s techniques have been 
co-opted and incorporated into contemporary bourgeois 
theater and him, though his challenge remains relevant: how 
to confront the problem of emotional manipulation while 
creating a stimulating, surprising, entertaining, radically 
critical, popularly appealing and accessible social art practice. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Identity correction p. 60 
Electoral guerrilla theater p. 40 

PRINCIPLES 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Use the power of ritual p. 198 
Reframe p. 168 

Balance art and message p. 100 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Society of the Spectacle p. 266 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 212 
Capitalism p. 216 


THEORY: Alienation effect 



nti-oppression 


IN SUM 

Anti-oppression practice 
provides a framework for 
constructively addressing 
and changing oppressive 
dynamics as they play 
out in our organizing. 

EPIGRAPH 

“If you have come to help me, 
you are wasting your time. But 
if you have come because your 
liberation is bound up in mine, 
then let us work together.” 

-Lila Watson 

ORIGINS 

As long as there has been oppression, 
people have been working to end it. In 
recent decades, the Highlander Center 
and the People’s Institute for Survival 
and Beyond have worked to undo racism 
and build collective liberation. After 
Seattle, a whole new wave of work 
began, deepening each year with new 
collectives emerging and new practices 
evolving. The work outlined here has been 
learned over time from many teachers. 

PRACTITIONERS 

People's Institute for Survival and Beyond 
Alliance of Community Trainers 
No One is Illegal 
People of Color Organize! 
Rinku Sen & Applied Research Center 
The Ruckus Society 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Lisa Fithian 
Dave Oswald Mitchell 


Activist groups sometimes make the mistake of assuming that 
oppression (the unjust exercise of power or authority) is only 
what they do; that we are inherently anti-oppressive purely 
because of our intention to do away with oppressive struc- 
tures. Unfortunately the situation is much more complex, 
and we ig-nore that complexity 
at our peril. 

We have been socialized in 
cultures founded upon mul- 
tiple, overlapping forms of 
oppression, often leading us 
to inadvertently perpetuate 
dehumanizing behaviors, sit- 
uations and structures. Our 
oppressive actions diminish us, 
divide us and inhibit our ability 
to organize broad-based, eman- 


“ Our oppressive 
actions diminish 
us, divide us and 
inhibit our ability 
to organize 
broad-based, 
emancipatory 

apatory movements. mOVementS.” 

In order to build a world free from domination, we offer up 
for discussion the following tenets and practices in the hopes 
they can provide a solid foundation for advancing our work and 
deepening our interpersonal relationships. 


Tenets 

• Power and privilege can play out in our group dynamics 
in destructive ways. For the good of all, we must chal- 
lenge words and actions that marginalize, exclude or 
dehumanize others. 


• We can only identify the ways that power and privilege 
play out when we are conscious and committed to un- 
derstanding how white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, 
heterosexism and other systems of oppression affect us all. 

• Until we are clearly committed to anti-oppression prac- 
tice, all forms of oppression will continue to divide and 
weaken our movements. 

• Developing anti-oppression practices is life-long work. 


THEORY: Anti-oppression 



No single workshop is sufficient for unlearning 
our socialization within a culture built on multiple 
forms of oppression. 

Dialogue, discussion and reflection are some of the 
tools through which we overcome oppressive atti- 
tudes, behaviors and situations in our groups. Anti- 
oppression work requires active listening, non-de- 
fensiveness and respectful communication. 

Personal practices 

Challenge yourself to be courageously honest and 
open, willing to take risks and make yourself vulner- 
able in order to address racism, sexism, homophobia, 
transphobia and other oppressive dynamics head-on. 

When you witness, experience, or commit an abuse 
of power or oppression, address it as proactively as the 
situation permits, either one-on-one or with a few al- 
lies, keeping in mind that the goal is to encourage 
positive change. 

Challenge the behavior, not the person. Be sensitive 
and promote open dialogue. 

When someone offers criticism in an oppressive 
framework, treat it as a gift rather than an attack. 
Give people the benefit of the doubt. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Colour of Resistance archive 

http://www.coloursofresistance.org/ 

Applied Research Center, 

“Toolbox for Racial Justice" 

http://www.arc.org/content/ 

blogcategory/77/214/ 

Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: 
Unpacking the invisible knapsack" 

http://trb.la/xtbAq G 

Audre Lorde, “There Is No Hierarchy 
of Oppressions" 

http://trb.la/zBbOrc 

bell hooks. Teaching to Transgress: 
Education as the Practice of Freedom 
[ New York, NY: Routledge, 1994) 

Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections 
on race from a privileged son. 

[Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011) 

Paul Kivel, Men’s Work: How to Stop 
the Violence that Tears Our Lives Apart 
[Center City, MN: Hazeldon Press, 1992) 

Alliance of Community Trainers, 
Anti-Oppression Resources: 

http://organizingforpower. 

wordpress.com/power/ 

anti-oppression-resources-exercises/ 

Global Exchange, Anti-Oppression Reader 

http://www.seac.org/wp-content/ 

uploads/2011/07/AO_Reader_2007.pdf 

Related: 


Be willing to lose a friend, but try not to “throw away” 
people who fuck up. Help them take responsibility 
for making reparations for their behavior, and be 
willing to extend forgiveness in return. 

Take on the “grunt” work that often falls on women, 
especially women of color. This includes the work of 
cooking, cleaning, set up, clean up, phone calls, e-mail, 
taking notes, doing support work, sending mailings. 

Understand that you will feel discomfort as you face 
your part in oppression, and realize that this is a neces- 
sary part of the process. We must support each other 
and be gentle with each other in this process. 


TACTICS 

Forum theater p. 48 
Image theater p. 62 

PRINCIPLES 

Consensus is a means, not an end p. 116 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

Challenge patriarchy as you organize p. 108 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 

We are all leaders web 

Make new folks welcome p. 114 


THEORY: Anti-oppression 


THEORIES 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 


• Don’t feel guilty, feel responsible. Being part of the prob- 
lem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the 
solution. 

• Contribute time and energy to building healthy relation- 
ships, both personal and political. 

Organizational practices 

• Commit time to facilitated discussions on discrimina- 
tion and oppression. 

• Set anti-oppression goals and continually evaluate 
whether or not you are meeting them. 

• Create opportunities for people to develop anti-oppres- 
sion skills and practices. 

• Promote egalitarian group development by prioritizing 
skill shares and an equitable division of roles, responsi- 
bilities and recognition. 

• Respect different styles of leadership and communication. 

• Don’t push historically marginalized people to do things 
because of their oppressed group (tokenism); base it on 
their work, experience and skills. 

• Make a collective commitment to hold everyone account- 
able for their behavior so that the organization can be a 
safe and nurturing place for all. 


1 This article is adapted from “Anti-Oppression Principles & Practices” by Lisa Fithian, itself compiled 
from the "Anti-Racism Principles and Practices” by Risellp DAN-LA, Overcoming Masculine Oppres- 
sion by Bill Moyers and the FEMMAFESTO by a women’s affinity group in Philadelphia. 


214 


THEORY: Anti-oppression 


TO LOVE. 


.aavoa aa ot 

TO NEVER FORGET YOUR OWN INSIGNIFICANCE. 

aaaAXAaaaKU aHT ot aaau Tao aavavi ot 
aaia ao ytiratzici raojtjv (iha aonaaoiv 

■ UOY dVIUORA 

TO SEEK JOY IN THE SADDEST PLACES. 

.iiiAJ 2Ti ot YTUAaa augaua OT 

TO NEVER SIMPLIFY WHAT IS COMPLICATED OR TO 
COMPLICATE WHAT IS SIMPLE. 

.aawoa aava vi t HTOviaRTa tohm ^i ot 



o/je 



TO WATCH. 

.aviAT2Raanij oha yrt ot 

TO NEVER LOOK AWAY 


AND 

NEVER, 

NEVER, 

TO FORGET. 


-Arundhati Roy 




THEORY: 

apitalism 


IN SUM 

Capitalism is a 
profit-driven economic 
system rooted in 
inequality, exploitation, 
dispossession and 
environmental destruction. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Capitalism turns men and 
women into economic 
cannibals, and having done 
so, mistakes economic 
cannibalism for human nature.” 

-Edward Hyman 

“Capitalists don’t control capital; 
capital controls capitalists.” 

-Unknown 

ORIGINS 

The transition to capitalism took 
place in northwestern Europe 
between the sixteenth and nineteenth 
century, and expanded from this region 
to the rest of the world through 
colonialism and imperialism. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jeffery Webber 


216 


The cause of the economic crisis that began in 2008 is not 
inadequate regulation of the free market, but runs far deeper. 
The global slump we are living through is the predictable 
manifestation of a crisis-prone economic system rooted in 
production for profit rather than for human need. That 
economic system is called capitalism, and for the sake of human 
development and ecological sanity it needs to be overthrown. 
But to be overthrown, it must first be understood. 



Capitalism Works For Me! True/False. Original public art by Steve Lambert. 

Capitalism is an economic system in which almost anything 
we need or want must be bought on the market, and in which 
most of us have nothing to sell but our labor. Capitalism is not 
a thing, but a social relation between capital and labor that 
divides humanity into two principal social classes: the capital- 
ist class, or bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production 
(tools, resources, land), and the working class, or proletariat, 
which does not have access to the means of production and 
therefore must sell its own labor power, or ability to work. 

The laws of competition and profit-maximization govern 
the capitalist market. Each enterprise exists alongside many 
others that are all producing similar products or services. 
Each needs to outperform the others, minimizing costs and 
maximizing profit, or they will be driven into bankruptcy. 


THEORY: Capitalism 



“For the sake 
of human 
development and 
ecological sanity, 
capitalism needs to 
be overthrown. But 
to be overthrown, 
it must first be 
understood” 


Technological innovation is one 
way to cut costs. Compelling em- 
ployees to work harder and 
longer for less is another. 

Capitalists’ drive to expand 
propels economic growth, but 
at a certain point, production 
exceeds demand, and there are 
too many factories and mills 
producing the same thing for 
every firm to be profitable. 

This is the recurring crisis of 
over-accumulation and profit- 
ability into which capitalism 
enters. While profits during 
the expansive phase are privatized in the pockets of owners, 
the costs of crisis are socialized through austerity measures, 
unemployment, and poverty. 

Capitalists are indifferent to the commodities they produce 
so long as the need to generate profit is fulfilled see THEORY: 
Commodity fetishism . Solar energy or tar sands oil, cluster bombs 
or malaria medication, it does not matter what is produced or 
what purpose it serves, so long as it is profitable. Capitalism in 
this sense means production for exchange (profit) instead of 
production for use (human need and ecological sustainability) . 
The moral perversity of this dynamic is played out daily in an 
economy that produces luxury cars and gourmet pet food for 
a few, while allowing the reproduction of almost unthinkable 
levels of global hunger and poverty, with more than one billion 
people living on less that $1 per day, and another billion and 
a half on under $2. 

In sum, capitalism means waste, poverty, ecological deg- 
radation, dispossession, inequality, exploitation, imperialism, 
war and violence. We need to build mass movements to replace 
it with an economic system based on production for human 
need and ecological sustainability, with participatory and 
democratic planning, worker and community self-management, 
and international solidarity. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They 
Don’t Tell You About Capitalism 
[Bloomsbury Press, 2011). 

Video: Crises of Capitalism 
[animated lecture by David Harvey) 

http://trb.la/xS91HD 

David McNally, Another World is Pos- 
sible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism, 
[Winnipeg: ArbeiterRing Publishing, 2005) 

Ellen M eiksins Wood, The Origin 
of Capitalism: A Longer View 
[London: Verso, 2002) 

Selma James, Sex, Race and Class [197 5) 

http://trb.la/xrfB7D 

Naomi Klein, “Capitalism vs the 
Climate," November 28, 2011 

http://trb.la/xNKuPLe 

Related: 

TACTICS 

General strike p. 50 
Debt strike p. 24 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Debtors of the world, unite! p. 120 
Challenge patriarchy as you organize p. 108 

THEORIES 

Commodity fetishism p. 218 
Society of the spectacle p. 266 
The shock doctrine p. 262 
The commons p. 220 
Debt revolt p. 226 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Pillars of support p. 248 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Modern Day Slavery Museum p. 338 
Yomango p. 400 


THEORY: Capitalism 



THEORY: 

ommodity fetishism 


IN SUM 

There is nothing natural or 
inevitable about money, debt, 
property rights, or markets; 
they are symbolic systems 
that derive their efficacy from 
collective belief. Activists 
should inspire radical hope 
by exposing the mutability of 
these social relationships. 

ORIGINS 

Karl Marx 

PRACTITIONERS 

UK Uncut 
Reverend Billy and the 
Church of Earthalujah 
Situationists 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Onion, “U.S. Economy Grinds 
to Halt as Nation Realizes Money Just a 
Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion," 
February 16, 2010. 

http://trb.la/x4SICw 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Zack Malitz 


218 


“For Marx , the 
important truths 
of economics could 
all be found in 
the gritty process 
of production , in 
the places where 
people actually 
worked and lived.” 


Commodity fetishism is the col- 
lective belief that it is natural 
and inevitable to measure the 
value of useful things with 
money. Marx coined the term to 
mock political economists who 
believed that carefully study- 
ing economic systems would 
eventually yield a set of natural 
laws comparable to those 
found in physics or chemistry. 

In a regrettably racist out- 
burst in Capital, Marx compared 
the political economists of his 
day to “primitive” people who 

attributed magical powers to ordinary objects — stones, wood 
carvings, weapons or, in the case of the economists, physical 
currency. Their theories, Marx fumed, amounted to little more 
than a superstitious belief that animal spirits lurked in com- 
modities, and moved markets by magic. 

Marx was convinced that most economists barely scratch the 
surface of economic reality because they were entranced by its 
elaborate symbolism: money, debt, property rights, prices and, 
in our time, ever more complicated methods for computing 
risk. For Marx, the important truths of economics could all 
be found in the gritty process of production, in the places 
where people actually worked and lived. From the roaring 
machinery of the factory to the rat-infested hovels of the 
urban proletariat, from the collapse of rural social life to the 
actual distribution of natural resources, the most important 
aspects of capitalist society were all traceable back to political 
domination by a small class of property owners. What 
really mattered about the economy, in Marx’s view, was that the 
ruling class could rely on its military and police forces to 
resolve conflicts over ownership with violence. 

Marx’s point remains relevant. By the middle of the twen- 
tieth century, orthodox economics had become a heavily 
quantitative discipline that took pride in its alleged scientific 
objectivity. At the heart of modern economics is the desire 


THEORY: Commodity fetishism 



Related: 



Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir preach the repudiation of commodity fetishism. 


TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Eviction blockade p. 44 
Debt strike p. 24 

PRINCIPLES 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Debtors of the world, united! p. 120 
Escalate strategically p. 134 

THEORIES 

Pillars of support p. 248 
The commons p. 220 
Capitalism p. 21 6 
Society of the Spectacle p. 266 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Debt revolt p. 226 


to devise models capable of making accurate predictions 
about economic reality. Consequently, economists are still 
dissecting the commodity market and studying it under a 
microscope to discern its secrets. They tend to be skeptical 
of collective decision-making and favorably disposed toward 
markets because they mistakenly attribute agency to money 
and markets, in effect believing that the market is moved by 
mysterious forces that, whether they are natural laws or ani- 
mal spirits, humans simply cannot control. 

The challenge for anyone who wants to radically change 
the world is to dispel the magical aura of the market and the 
attendant myth of human impotence. Markets don’t have 
power or agency, people do. Think of what happens during a 
revolutionary general strike. People refuse to work or perform 
even basic social rituals. The state dissolves overnight and, 
for a miraculous instant, anything is possible. Banks could 
be public property, roads could be pedestrian thoroughfares, 
shopping districts could be spaces for political deliberation 
and the government could really be for the people. 

Anyone who asserts that there is something inevitable in the 
historical process has not studied the subject. The beginning 
of radical hope is the recognition that social relationships are 
arbitrary and mutable — and need not be mediated through 
monetary transactions. 


CASE STUDIES 

Reclaim the streets p. 35 0 
Turning streets into gardens p. 368 
The Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Occupy Wall Street web 


THEORY: Commodity fetishism 


e commons 



IN SUM 

Our common wealth - the 
shared bounty that we inherit 
and create together - precedes 
and surrounds our private 
wealth. By building a system 
that protects and expands our 
common wealth rather than 
one that exploits it, we can 
address both our ecological 
and social imbalances. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Even an entire society, a 
nation, or all simultaneously 
existing societies taken together, 
are not the owners of the earth. 
They are simply its possessors, 
its beneficiaries, and have to 
bequeath it in an improved 
state to succeeding generations 
as boni patres familias [good 
heads of the household].” 

-Karl Marx 


“A twenty-first- 
century commons 
sector wouldn’t 
replace the market 
or the state , but 
would rather serve 
as a necessary 

, balance to them.” 

(music, art, science, open- 

source software). All of these are gifts we share and are 
obliged to preserve for others and for future generations. 

The trouble is that, under capitalism, common wealth 
is increasingly appropriated by private corporations and 
wealthy individuals for profit. To counter this, we need to 
expand and strengthen both the commons and the institu- 
tions that sustain them. 

Several doctrines flow from the idea of the commons: 


In pre-capitalist times, shared 
commons were the source of 
sustenance for most people. 
Though corporations have 
enclosed and diminished 
much of the commons, it lives 
on in three portfolios: natu- 
ral wealth (air, water, seeds, 
ecosystems, other species); com- 
munity wealth (streets, parks, 
the Internet, money, social 
insurance); and cultural wealth 


Public trust doctrine: The state must act as the trustee 
of common wealth for the benefit of all, or designate 
accountable trustees. 


ORIGINS 

The concept of the commons dates back 
to Roman times, with emperor Justinian 
(530 AD] declaring, “By the law of nature 
these things are common to mankind: the 
air, running water, the sea, and conse- 
quently the shores of the sea." The Magna 
Carta (121 5] established forests and fish- 
eries as commons open to all. John Locke 
[1689] declared that private property is 
appropriate only if “there is enough, and 
as good, left in common for others." 


We’re all in this together: The capitalist-era risks of unem- 
ployment, disability, illness, climate change and unfunded 
retirement are best shared collectively rather than borne 
individually. 

Polluter pays: Polluters should pay to dump wastes in shared 
ecosystems. 

Precautionary principle: Ecosystems should be managed for 
long-term health, not short-term profit. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Peter Barnes 


One person, one share: Rent from common assets belongs to 
everyone equally. 


THEORY: The commons 



Usufruct: Our right to make use of a given resource is 
contingent upon our responsibility to preserve and enrich 
that resource for future generations. 


It’s important to note that, 
though the commons sector 
needs state support (just as 
the private sector does), it’s 
not identical to the state. One 
can imagine a vibrant com- 
mons sector built around the 
Internet and the airwaves; 
trusts that protect key essen- 
tial resources like clean air, water, forests and topsoil; universal 
health care; dividends paid from common wealth to 
everyone and local arts funds based on copyright fees. One 
can also imagine fees on private transactions that profit from 
the financial commons. 

An important function of the commons sector would be 
to charge corporations for costs (such as bank bailouts and 
pollution) that they currently impose on the rest of us. If this 
were done, businesses would speculate less and invest more in 
clean technologies, and rent from commons use could provide 
non-labor income to all. 

In short, a twenty-first-century commons sector wouldn’t 
replace the market or the state, but would rather serve as a 
necessary balance to them. While such a sector won’t emerge 
all at once, we can build it piece by piece over time. 



Photo by twoblueday 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: Parks and wilderness areas, the 
Internet, Wikipedia, Social Security, the Alaska Permanent 
Fund (pays equal dividends to all Alaskans with revenue from 
oil leases). 

MOST INFAMOUS BETRAYAL: Free gifts of air to polluters, money 
to banks and airwaves to broadcasters. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Creative Commons 
OnTheCommons 
Electronic Frontier Foundation 
Greenpeace 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

On the Commons, “All That We Share: 

A Field Guide to the Commons" 

http://onthecommons.org/ 

all-we-share-field-guide-commons 

Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to 
Reclaiming the Commons 

www.capitalism3.com 

David Bollier: News and 
Perspectives on the Commons 

www.bollier.org 

The Commoner: A Web 
Journal for Other Values 

http://www.commoner.org.uk/ 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Occupation p. 78 
Blockade p. 14 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Capitalism p. 21 6 
The shock doctrine p. 262 
Temporary Autonomous Zone [TAZ] p. 270 

CASE STUDIES 

Reclaim the Streets p. 35 0 
Small Gifts p. 360 
Streets into gardens p. 368 
The salt march p. 354 


THEORY: The commons 



THEORY: 


ultural hegemony 


IN SUM 

Politics is not only 
fought out in state houses, 
workplaces or on 
battlefields, but also in 
the language we use, the 
stories we tell, and the 
images we conjure - 
in short, in the ways we 
make sense of the world. 

EPIGRAPH 

“The most obvious, important 
realities are often the ones 
that are hardest to see and talk 
about. Stated as an English 
sentence, of course, this is just 
a banal platitude, but the fact is 
that in the day to day trenches 
of adult existence, banal 
platitudes can have a life 
or death importance.” 

-David Foster Wallace 

ORIGINS 

Antonio Cramsci; further 
developed by Stuart Hall 

PRACTITIONERS 

Guillermo Gomez-Peha 
Guerrilla Girls 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Stephen Duncombe 


222 


Cultural hegemony is a term 
developed by Antonio Gramsci, 
activist, theorist, and founder 
of the Italian Communist party. 
Writing while imprisoned in a 
Fascist jail, Gramsci was con- 
cerned with how power works: 
how it is wielded by those in 
power and how it is won by 
those who want to change the 
system. The dominant idea 
at the time amongst Marxist 
radicals like himself was that 
in order to attain power you 
needed to seize the means of production and administration — 
that is, take over the factories and the state. But Gramsci 
recognized that this was not sufficient. In his youth, he had 
witnessed workers take over factories in Turin, only to hand 
them back within weeks because they were unsure what to do 
with the factories, or themselves. Gramsci had also observed 
the skill of the Catholic Church in exercising its power and 
retaining the population’s allegiance. Gramsci realized that in 
order to create and maintain a new society, you also needed to 
create and maintain a new consciousness. 

The repository of consciousness is culture. This includes 
both big-C Culture, culture in an aesthetic sense, and small-c 
culture, culture in an anthropological sense: the norms and 
mores and discourses that make up our everyday lives. Culture, 
in this sense, is what allows us to navigate our world, guiding 
our ideas of right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, just and 
unjust, possible and impossible. You may be able to seize a 
factory or storm a palace, but unless this material power is 
backed up by a culture that reinforces the notion that what 
you are doing is good and beautiful and just and possible, 
then any gains on the economic, military and political fronts 
are likely to be short-lived. 

The power of cultural hegemony lies in its invisibility. 
Unlike a soldier with a gun or a political system backed up by a 
written constitution, culture resides within us. It doesn’t seem 



Antonio Gramsci. 


THEORY: Cultural hegemony 




“political,” it’s just what we like, 
or what we think is beautiful, 
or what feels comfortable. 

Wrapped in stories and images 
and figures of speech, culture 
is a politics that doesn’t look 
like politics and is therefore 
a lot harder to notice, much 
less resist. When a culture 
becomes hegemonic, it becomes 
“common sense” for the majority 
of the population. 

No culture, however, is com- 
pletely hegemonic. Even under 
the most complete systems of 
control, there are pockets 
of what Gramsci, and later 
Hall, called “counter-hege- 
monic” cultures: ways of thinking and doing that have revo- 
lutionary potential because they run counter to the dominant 
power. For Gramsci, these cultures might be located in tradi- 
tional peasant beliefs or the shop-floor culture of industrial 
workers; for Hall they might be found in youth subcultures 
like Rastafarians and punks, and even in commercial enter- 
tainment. The activist’s job, according to Hall, is to identify and 
exploit these cultural pockets, build a radical counter-culture 
within the shell of the old society, and wage the struggle for a 
new cultural hegemony. 

An important caveat: Gramsci never believed that cultural 
power alone was enough. The fight for cultural hegemony had 
to be part of an overall strategy that also incorporated struggles 
for political and economic power. 


The power of 
cultural hegemony 
lies in its 

invisibility. Unlike 
a soldier with a 
gun or a political 
system backed 
up by a written 
constitution , 
culture resides 
within us. ” 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Gramsci, Antonio. The Antonio Gramsci 
Reader: Selected Writings 1916- 
1935. New York: NYU Press, 2000. 

Morton, Adam. Unravelling 
Gramsci: Hegemony and Passive 
Revolution in the Global Economy. 
London: Pluto Press, 2007. 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Invisible theater p. 66 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
General strike p. 50 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Escalate strategically p. 134 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Pillars of support p. 248 

CASE STUDIES 

Wisconsin Capitol occupation p. 396 
Occupy Wall Street web 


THEORY: Cultural hegemony 


223 






THEORY: 

Debt revolt 


IN SUM 

Today’s class consciousness 
falls increasingly along debtor- 
creditor lines rather than 
worker-capitalist lines. 

EPIGRAPH 

“I ain’t a Communist 
necessarily, but I been 
in the red all my life.” 

-Woody Guthrie 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

David Graeber. Debt: The First 5,000 
Years. New York: Melville House, 2011. 

Michael Hudson. “The New Road to 
Serfdom: An Illustrated Guide to the 
Coming Real Estate Collapse." 
Harper's [May 2006). 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Dmytri Kleiner 


226 


Many activist communiques employ the classical language 
of class struggle. This language not only often fails to 
engage, it may even alienate people who might otherwise be 
sympathetic. The majority of people in the global north do not 
identify as workers, and thus any appeal addressed to workers 
is unlikely to achieve results in these societies. As the 
industrial base of the economy has moved east and south, 
the language of class politics in the global north has gotten 
much murkier and more complicated. I propose that debt- 
centered organizing offers 
the potential to reinvigorate 
radical struggle in the twenty- 
first century. 

The language of the labor 
movement emerged in an era 
when the power loom was 
the driving force of industry, 
nobility controlled the land 
and the state, and being a 
worker in early industry was 
torturous and inhumane. Most 
working people were direct producers. Today, most people 
in developed nations are non-direct producers, working in 
customer service, finance, and other administrative or 
technical fields. They are, therefore, no longer direct wit- 
nesses to the fruits of their labor being stolen from them and 
hoarded by capitalists, but rather are divided and subdivided 
in increasingly insidious ways. 

People today don’t conceive of the “product of their labor” 
as the actual goods sold by their employers; in their minds, 
the product of their labor is their paycheck. That is what they 
produce, that is what is taken from their hands, not by their 
boss, but by their bills, their debts, their taxes. This is one reason 
the right has been so successful at channelling populist 
rage away from big business and toward big government. 

Two decades of easy credit and bubble economics have 
left most people deeply in debt, often as a result of having 
to pay for essentials like education, childcare, housing and 
health care. This is a real opportunity for activists to make 


“People are broke 
because the system 
is broken. We have 
no moral obligation 
to keep paying 
into a system that 
is not working 


THEORY: Debt revolt 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Debt strike p. 24 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Eviction-blocking p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Debtors of the world, unite! p. 120 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORIES 

Capitalism p. 216 
Commodity fetishism p. 218 
Points of intervention p. 250 
The commons p. 220 

the case that capitalism simply can’t provide essential goods 
fairly and efficiently, that their debts are unjust and were 
forced on to them. People are broke because the system 
is broken. We have no moral obligation to keep paying into a 
system that is not working. 

The labor movement transformed the working conditions 
in developed nations and built the welfare state, and did 
so by championing the demands of the organized working 
class. Today, we have a debtors’ consciousness, united by 
financial stress and economic precarity, with debt its measure. 

Realizing our collective power to withdraw our willingness 
to pay debts see: TACTIC: Debt strike is potentially as system- 
shaking today as the power of the industrial working class to 
withdrawitslaborpoweracenturyago.Debtisaunitingcondition 
that can mobilize the masses to fight for change. 

The debtors of the world have nothing to lose but their 
chains. Debtors of the world, unite! 



THEORY: Debt revolt 



THEORY: 

Environmental justice 


IN SUM 

By exposing the connections 
between social justice and envi- 
ronmental issues we can most 
effectively challenge abuses of 
power that disproportionately 
target indigenous and other 
economically and politically 
disenfranchised communities. 

EPIGRAPH 

“As a black person in America I 
am twice as likely to live in an 
area where air pollution poses 
the greatest risk to my health. I 
am five times more likely to live 
within walking distance of a 
power plant or chemical facility, 
which I do. Fortunately there 
are people like me who are 
fighting for solutions that won’t 
compromise the lives of low- 
income communities of color 
in the short term - and won’t 
destroy us all in the long term.” 

-M ajora Carter 

ORIGINS 

Hazel Johnson, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, 
Charles Lee, Robert D. Bullard, the self- 
organization of impacted communities. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Margaret Campbell 


228 


In the United States today, race and class composition are the 
most reliable indicators of where the wastes that industrial 
society creates are dumped. Invariably, they have been shown to 
accumulate in and around poor and racialized communities. 
Environmental racism refers to this tendency to burden margin- 
alized groups with environmental problems. The movement 
for environmental justice is the organized response, seeking 
to redress the inequitable 
distribution of waste through 
both community develop- 
ment (greening) and political 
empowerment (petitioning for 
development and enforcement 
of environmental law and poli- 
cies) in poor communities and 
communities of color. 

After four little girls in from 
the South Side Chicago Altgeld 
Gardens housing community 
died from cancer in the early 
1980s, Hazel Johnson, long- 
time resident and founder of 
People for Community Recov- 
ery, put two and two together: 
their 190-acre community was 
home to over fifty documented 
landfills, and also to the high- 
est incidence of cancer in the city. Her organization went on 
to win many grassroots struggles for environmental justice 
on behalf of their predominantly poor, predominantly black 
community, and then began networking with other organiza- 
tions across the country. By the mid 1990s, the environmental 
justice movement had made significant strides in publicizing 
such issues, with organizations such as the United Church of 
Christ Commission for Racial Justice staging numerous acts 
of civil disobedience. 

Globally, powerful corporations have been able to spread 
the practice of exploiting politically vulnerable communities. 
As Lawrence Summers, Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton 


“What is at work 
here is not only 
racism, but a 
widespread and 
devastating ethic 
that withholds 
compassion from 
the environment, 
and denies the 
humanity of ninety- 
nine percent of the 
world’s people.” 


THEORY: Environmental justice 




The fight for environmental justice is a fight for your life. Image by Wake Forest University. 


and director of the National Economic Council under Obama, 
argued in a 1991 memo while employed at the World Bank, 
“the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in 
the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up 
to that. . . I’ve always thought that underpopulated countries 
in Africa are vastly underpolluted.” A Summers aide later 
claimed that the memo was intended sarcastically. Sarcasm or 
no, the statement accurately reflects the way waste is handled 
under capitalism. 

What is at work here is not only racism, but a widespread 
and devastating ethic that withholds compassion from the 
environment and denies the humanity of ninety-nine percent 
of the world’s people, treating them as resources to be exploited 
at best, or as entirely external to the economic calculations 
at worst. 

It is not by chance that the civil rights movement sparked a 
process that, in recent decades, has culminated in a veritable 
explosion of environmental activism. It is because of the 
insidious form that racism takes under the geographical 
development of capitalism that an utterly unsustainable way 
of life was allowed to evolve to the point of global climate 
catastrophe. Only by confronting as one the environmental 
and social manifestations of the crisis can we hope to replace 
this system with something more equitable for all. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Majora Carter - Sustainable South Bronx 

Van Jones 

Vandana Shiva 

Winona LaDuke 

Tar Sands Action 

Indigenous Environmental Network 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Dana Alston, We Speak for Ourselves: 
Social Justice, Race and the Environment. 
Washington, DC: Panos Institute, 1990. 

TED, “Majora Carter: Greening the Ghetto" 

http://trb.la/xDM62l 

Video: Democracy Now interview with 
Mohawk youth activist Jessica Yee 

http://trb.la/xXZqXJ 

The United Church of Christ 
Commission for Racial Justice, 

“Almost Everything You Need to Know 
About Environmental Justice" 

http://trb.la/z80clr 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Trek p. 90 

Identity correction p. 60 
Blockade p. 14 
Direct action p. 32 
Eviction blockade p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 

Bring the issue home p. 106 

Challenge patriarchy as you organize p. 108 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
The shock doctrine p. 262 
The commons p. 220 

CASE STUDIES 

Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p.318 


THEORY: Environmental justice 


229 





THEORY: 



spectacle 


IN SUM 

To be politically effective, 
activists need to engage 
in spectacle. By keeping 
to certain principles, 
our spectacles can be 
ethical, emancipatory, and 
faithful to reality. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Boredom is always 
counter-revolutionary. Always.” 

-Guy Debord 

ORIGINS 

Andrew Boyd 
Stephen Duncombe 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Situationists 
Abbie Hoffman/Yippies 
The Zapatistas 
Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 
Yes Men 
Greenpeace 
Billionaires for Bush 
Deconstructionist 
Institute for Surreal Topology 
Iraq Veterans Against the \Nar 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Duncombe, Stephen. Dream: Re-lmag- 
ining Progressive Politics in an Age of 
Fantasy. New York: New Press, 2007. 

Boyd, Andrew, and Stephen Duncombe. 
“The Manufacture of Dissent: What the 
Left Can Learn from Las Vegas." Journal 
of Aesthetics and Protest 1 , no. 3 (2004). 


The concept of ethical spectacle 
offers a way of thinking about 
the tactical and strategic use 
of signs, symbols, myths, and 
fantasies to advance progres- 
sive, democratic goals. First 
introduced in a 2004 article 
by Andrew Boyd and Stephen 
Duncombe and later ex- 
panded in Duncombe’s 2007 
book Dream, the theory’s 
premises are: (1) that politics 
is as much an affair of desire 
and fantasy as it is reason and 
rationality, (2) that we live in an intensely mediated age (what 
Situationist Guy Debord called the Society of the Spectacle), (3) 
that in order to be politically effective, activists need to enter the 
realmww of spectacle, and (4) that spectacular interventions 
have the potential to be both ethical and emancipatory. 

An ethical spectacle is a symbolic action that seeks to shift 
the political culture toward more progressive values. An ethi- 
cal spectacle should strive to be: 

Participatory: Seeking to empower participants and specta- 
tors alike, with organizers acting as facilitators. 

Open: Responsive and adaptive to shifting contexts and the 
ideas of participants. 

Transparent: Engaging the imagination of spectators with 
out seeking to trick or deceive. 

Realistic: Using fantasy to illuminate and dramatize real- 
world power dynamics and social relations that otherwise 
tend to remain hidden in plain sight. 



This mashup of two iconic images captures the ten- 
sions and contradictions of the ethical spectacle. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Stephen Duncombe 


Utopian: Celebrating the impossible — and therefore 
helping to make the impossible possible. 


230 


THEORY: Ethical Spectacle 




Related: 



TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLES 

Be an ethical prankster web 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 

THEORIES 

Society of the Spectacle p. 266 

Be both expressive and instrumental p. 232 

CASE STUDIES 

Santa Claus army p. 35 8 

The Big Donor Show p. 294 

Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal p. 318 


The Yippies used the symbolic power of flowers in this emancipatory spectacle. Flower Power, 1967, The Washington 
Evening Star photo by Bernie Boston. 


Progressives tend to distrust anything that smacks of pro- 
paganda or marketing — that’s what the other side does. We 
tend to believe that proclaiming the naked Truth is enough: 
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But 
waiting for the truth to set us free is lazy politics. The truth 
does not reveal itself by virtue of being the truth: it must be 
told, and told well. It must have stories woven around it, works 
of art made about it; it must be communicated in new and 
compelling ways that can be passed from person to person, 
even if this requires flights of fancy and new mythologies. The 
argument here is not for a progressive movement that deceives 
or cheapens its message but rather for a propaganda of the 
truth. This is the work of ethical spectacle. 


231 


THEORY: Ethical Spectacle 



THEORY: 

Expressive & instrumental actions 


IN SUM 

Political action tends 
to be driven by one of two 
different motivations: 
expressing an identity, and 
winning concrete changes. 
It’s important to know the 
difference, and to strike 
a balance between the two. 

EPIGRAPH 

“If the real radical finds that 
having long hair sets up 
psychological barriers 
to communication and orga- 
nization, he cuts his hair.” 

-Saul Alinsky 


ORIGINS 

Resource Mobilization Theory 
of the 1970's-Present 

PRACTITIONERS 

Otpor 

The orange alternative 
Gran Fury 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Deconstructionist Institute 
of Surrealist Topology 
Lesbian Avengers 
The Zapatista Army of Na- 
tional Liberation [EZLN] 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 
Joshua Kahn Russell 
Zack Malitz 


Sometimes activists will take an action without much thought to 
how others receive it, or what precisely the action will achieve. 
Many people participate in actions because it’s meaningful 
to them, or simply because it feels good to do the right thing. 
We call this the expressive part of an action. Expressive actions 
come from the heart and the gut — whether or not our “heads” 
calculate the specific outcome. 

“Taking the street” during a march is a perfect example. 
Sure, it feels good to march un-permitted in the street. You and 
your comrades bravely disobey police orders and, all together, 
walk out into traffic. You can practically smell the group cohe- 
sion in the air. It’s intoxicating. It’s also usually inconsequential 
in terms of broader social movement objectives. Still, how 
many times have you heard someone say a march was “bad” 
simply because it stayed on the sidewalk? When someone says 
this, it may be because their goals are primarily expressive; 
affecting social change is of secondary importance. 

Most trained organizers think on another level: regardless 
of the self-expressive value for those involved, we ask “what is 
this action actually achieving for our issue, cause, movement, 
or campaign?” We call this the instrumental value of an action. 

Both aspects are important, and though a well designed 
action can deliver on both simultaneously, expressive and 
instrumental often get pitted against one another. Many 
hard-nosed organizers focus exclusively on tangible impacts, 
forgetting that the self-expressive dimension of an action plays 
a critical role in affirming values and building group identity. 
On the other hand, many groups can carry out a whole string 
of expressive actions without ever winning anything The danger 
here is clear: groups that don’t evaluate the success of their 
tactics in terms of their instrumental goals risk becoming nar- 
cissistic and self-referential. They can spiral into irrelevance 
because they aren’t tuned into how their action effects anyone 
outside of the group see PRINCIPLE: No one wants to watch a 
drum circle. 

While instrumental actions are often focused on an 
“external” outcome, say, some measurable kind of pressure you 
can exert on the bad guy your campaign is targeting, they can 
also have an “internal” focus. Consider a mass teach-in that 


232 


THEORY: Expressive & instrumental actions 



is designed to build your organization’s capacity, or increase 
the skills of participants, or shift the thinking in your move- 
ment. Here, the expressive value of the action is being directly 
translated into an instrumental outcome. Expressive and 
instrumental are therefore not mutually exclusive categories, 



Reflective wolves consider instrumental impacts. (Image by Joshua Kahn Russell and Beatriz Carmen Mendoza, 
inspired by a cartoon by S. Gross. Originally printed in Organizing Cools the Planet (PM Press, 2011)). 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Blockade p. 14 
Direct action p. 32 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Banner hang p. 12 
General strike p. 50 
Guerrilla projection p. 52 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Occupation p. 78 

PRINCIPLES 

Make your actions both 

concrete and communicative p. 1 54 

No one wants to watch a drum circle p. 156 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

Choose tactics that support 

your strategy p. 112 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Use your radical fringe to shift 

the Overton window p. 200 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

THEORIES 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Pillars of support p. 248 


but rather dynamics to which we need to pay attention. 

Instrumental actions can be further subdivided into 
“communicative” and “concrete” see PRINCIPLE: Make your 
actions both concrete and communicative. Communicative actions 
are designed to sway opinion, express an idea, or contribute 
to public discourse, while concrete actions are designed to have 
a tangible impact on a target. These are two separate ways of 
measuring an instrumental outcome. 

While self-expression is a necessary part of the social change 
process, it is not sufficient. Through our rituals of self-expres- 
sion, we affirm our values and visions and build the kind of 
group identity and cohesion without which we’d be too weak and 
disorganized to change the world see THEORY: Political identity 
paradox. That said, expressing values is not the same as engaging society 
and affecting systemic change. If we really want to change the world, 
we must know the difference between — and artfully balance — 
our instrumental goals with our desire for self-expression. 


CASE STUDIES 

Taco bell boycott p. 372 
Reclaim the streets p. 35 0 
Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Harry Potter Alliance p. 322 
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel 
Clown Army p. 304 


THEORY: Expressive & instrumental actions 


233 



THEORY: 

Floating signifier 


IN SUM 

An empty or “floating” 
signifier is a symbol or concept 
loose enough to mean many 
things to many people, yet 
specific enough to galvanize 
action in a particular direction. 

EPIGRAPH 

“We are.. .the face that 
hides itself to be seen.” 

-Subcomandante Marcos 

“We are the ones we’ve 
been waiting for.” 

-Barack Obama 

“We are the 99 percent.” 

-Occupy Wall Street 


ORIGINS 

Coined by Claude Levi-Strauss; 
elaborated by Roland Barthes, Stuart 
Hall, Ernesto Laclau, and others. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Zapatista Army of 
National Liberation (EZLN) 
Occupy Wall Street 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Subcommandante Marcos, Our Word is 
Our Weapon: Selected Writings. (New 
York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2002) 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 
Andrew Boyd 
Dave Oswald Mitchell 


234 


The American flag inspires extreme passions . . . but what 
exactly does it stand for? To different people it means freedom, 
justice, imperialism and terror — its meaning shifts wildly 
depending on context and observer. This emptiness, into which 
observers can pour almost any meaning or desire, is a large 
part of the symbol’s power. 

For activists, a well-crafted floating signifier can be a pow- 
erful tool for catalyzing broad-based action. Subcommandan- 
te Marcos and the Zapatistas, 
for example, deployed the con- 
cept of the floating signifier 
masterfully. Marcos described 
the masks the Zapatistas wore 
as a mirror in which all who 
struggle for a better world can 
see themselves. The Zapatistas’ 
iconic black balaclava was not 
just a necessity for personal 
security, but became a powerful 
statement of unity and univer- 
sality. “Behind our black mask,” 
they declared, “we are you.” 1 

In 2008, presidential candi- 
date Barack Obama also made 
masterful use of floating sig- 
nihers. His poetic rhetoric of 
“hope” and “change we can 
believe in” inspired a popula- 
tion weary from eight years of misrule. He became whatever his 
supporters wanted him to be. Obama explicitly acknowledged 
this phenomenon in the prologue to his campaign screed, The 
Audacity of Hope : “I serve as a blank screen on which people of 
vastly different political stripes project their own views.” 

Finding the right floating signifier can make or break 
a social movement or campaign. When a challenger social 
movement hits upon such a catalyzing symbol, it’s like striking 
gold. One might even argue that broad social movements are 
constituted in the act of finding their floating signifier. Hither- 
to disparate groups suddenly congeal into a powerful aligned 



What do Guy Fawkes, the “hope" campaign poster 
and the 99% have in common? They can be used in- 
dividually, or together (as in this image], as floating 
signifiers to unite campaigns and movements. Original 
design by Shepard Fairey. 


THEORY: Floating signifier 




force. Momentum is on their side, and things that seemed 
impossible only yesterday become visible on the horizon. 

Indeed, the power of a good floating signiher was perhaps 
nowhere more evident than in the overnight growth of Occupy 
Wall Street see case. Far eclipsing the literal physical occupation 
in Zucotti Park, OWS resonated so far and wide because it 
served as a symbol about standing up to powerful elites on 
their own doorstep. To many people, the “occupy” in “Occupy 
Wall Street” essentially stands in for the F word. Millions of 
Americans were waiting for someone or something to stand 
up to Wall Street, the big banks, the mega-corporations, and 
the political elite. Then one day, a relatively small crew of 
audacious and persistent New 
Yorkers became that someone 
or something — became the 
catalyzing symbol of defiance 
we’d been waiting for. And by 
having an open process, and 
not fixing its meaning early 
with a ten-point program or 
the like, the symbol was able to 
continue “floating.” 

It’s not that the symbol is 
“occupy” and “the 99 %” carry content that strategically frames 
public thinking and pulls the political discourse in a clear 
direction. But a degree of ambiguity is absolutely necessary if 
such a symbol is to catalyze a broad alignment. If the symbol’s 
meaning becomes too particular — too associated with any 
one current or group within the alignment — it risks losing 
its powerfully broad appeal. This is why the forces defending 
the status quo try to nail it down. Their hope is that by fixing 
it to particular meanings, associating it with particular “kinds 
of people” and to narrower frameworks, it will no longer func- 
tion as a popular symbol. 

Float on, beautiful signiher. Float on. 


“Finding the 
right floating 
signifier can 
make or 
break a social 
movement ” 

empty of meaning. Both 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Identity correction p. 60 
Media-jacking p. 72 

PRINCIPLES 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Reframe p. 168 
Think narratively p. 186 
Brand or be branded p. 104 
Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 

The tactics of everyday life p. 244 

Hashtag politics p. 238 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 
99% bat signal p. 278 
Yomango p. 400 


1 Remarks of the General Command of the EZLN, opening ceremony of the First Intercontinental Meeting 
For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. 

2 This article incorporates passages from a blog post by Jonathan Matthew Smucker, “The tactic of occupa- 
tion and the movement of the 99%.” 


THEORY: Floating signifier 


235 



THEORY: 

Hamoq & hamas 


IN SUM 

Turning anger into action 
is necessary to move the 
powers that be, but that anger 
is most effective when it is 
disciplined and intelligently 
focused (hamas). Uncontrolled, 
stupid anger (hamoq) mostly 
undermines your own cause. 

ORIGINS 

Hamza Yusuf, 2000s 


PRACTITIONERS 

Tutte Bianche 
Ruckus Society 
Environmental Defense Fund 
Egyptian Revolution 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

This article was adapted from The 
Guardian, “Raising the Temperature: 
Corporate Power Will Not Be Given 
Up Voluntarily-Non-Violent Mass 
Action Is Needed,"July 24, 2001. 


CONTRIBUTED BY 


George Monbiot 


236 


The great Islamic activist 
Hamza Yusuf Hanson distin- 
guishes between two forms of 
political action. He defines 
the Arabic word hamas as 
enthusiastic, but intelligent, 
anger. Hamoq means uncon- 
trolled, stupid anger. 

The Malays could not 
pronounce the Arabic H, 
and the British acquired the 
second word from them. On 
the streets of Genoa during 
the 2001 G8 summit, while the white overalls movement 
practiced hamas, seeking to rip down the fences around 
Genoa’s red zone but refusing to return the blows of the 
police, the black block ran amok. 

The important thing about hamas is that, whether 
or not it is popular, it is comprehensible. People can see 
immediately what you are doing and why you are doing it. 

Hamoq, by contrast, leaves its spectators dumbfounded. 
Hamas may have demolished the McDonald’s in Whitehall 
on May Day 2000, but it would have left the Portuguese 
restaurant and the souvenir shop beside it intact. 

Hamas explains itself. It is a demonstration in both 
senses of the word: a protest and an exposition of the rea- 
sons for that protest. Hamoq, by contrast, seeks no public 
dialogue. Hamas is radical. Hamoq is reactionary. 

If, like some of the black bloc warriors I have spoken to, 
you cannot accept this distinction, then look at how the police 
responded to these two very different species of anger. 

On Friday, though they were armed to the teeth and 
greatly outnumbered the looters, the police stood by and 
watched as the black bloc rampaged around Brignole station, 
smashing every shopfront and overturning the residents’ 
cars. Then, on Saturday night, on the pretext of looking 
for the people who had caused the violence, the police 
raided the schools in which members of the nonviolent 
Genoa Social Forum were sleeping, and started beating 



THEORY: Debt revolt 



them to a pulp before they 
could get out of their sleeping 
bags. The police, like almost 
everyone else in Genoa, knew 
perfectly well that the black 
bloc were, at the time, camped 
in a car park miles away. 

It is not hard to see which 
faction Italy’s borderline- 
fascist state felt threatened 
by, and which faction it could 
accept and even encourage. 

If Carlo Giuliani did not 
die in vain, it was because 
the Genoa Social Forum had 
so clearly articulated the case 

he may have been seeking to make. His hamoq forced a 
response because other people were practicing hamas. 

Hamas instructs us to choose our enemies carefully. 
Indeed, when actions are clearly focused, then violence 
toward human beings is far less likely to take place, as it’s 
harder to forget what we are seeking to achieve. 


“Hamas explains 
itself. It is a 
demonstration in 
both senses of the 
word: a protest 
and an exposition of 
the reasons for that 
protest Hamoq, by 
contrast, seeks no 
public dialogue ” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Strategic nonviolence p. 32 
Mass street action p. 14 
Prefigurative intervention web 
Direct action p. 68 

PRINCIPLES 

Escalate strategically p. 174 

The real action is your target's reaction web 

Don't confuse your stratgy 

and your tactic p. 186 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 152 

Anger only works when you 

have the high moral ground web 

Maintain nonviolent discipline web 

Kill them with kindness p. 114 

THEORIES 

Revolutionary nonviolence p. 236 
Action logic p. 250 
Pillars of support p. 244 
The tactic s of everyday life 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: Tahrir Square and the U.S. civil 
rights movement. 


THEORY: Debt revolt 


237 



THEORY: 

Hashtag politics 


IN SUM 

Your action or campaign 
doesn’t just send a message, it 
convenes a conversation. 

By strategically defining 
the hashtag and curating 
the ensuing conversation, 
you can expand and deepen 
your support base. 

PRACTITIONERS 

UK Uncut 
Adbusters 
The Yes Men 
The Tea Party 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Russia Today, “Censored: ftoccupy- 
wallstreet,” November 18, 2011. 

http://rt.com/news/ 

twitter-ows-protest-censorship-653/ 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Duncan M eisel 


238 



Hashtags are powerful tools for convening a conversation 
around a strategically chosen subject. In many cases, 
the hashtag is a person, place, or other concrete noun. 


Our contemporary media environment encourages absolutely 
everyone to participate in conversations about current events. 
This means your action won’t just send a message, but through 
social media like Twitter and Facebook, it will also convene a 
conversation. With hundreds of millions of people around the 
world participating in social networks, it’s become passe to try 
to “be the media.” Increasingly, activist storytelling strategies 
are designed to convene the conversation by practicing what 
one might call hashtag politics. 

To explain the term: the 
users of the microblogging social 
network Twitter established a 
convention for organizing ideas, 
using a label called a hashtag. 

Twitter hashtags combine a 
“#” symbol and a keyword that 
connect posts from different 
authors (e.g., #noKXL for 
discussion about the Keystone XL pipeline, #OWS for Occupy 
Wall Street) . Posts that share a hashtag can be viewed together 
in a single place, facilitating an ongoing public conversation. 

Like a frame, a hashtag organizes and amplifies attention. 
Twitter hashtags are the most literal manifestation of a broader 
tendency of our highly connected, socially mediated environment 
toward greater interactivity. Each social media network has 
its own method for organizing conversations, from YouTube 
video replies, to Facebook’s friends talking about feature, to 
simple blog comments. The tendency is also manifested in 
cable network talk shows, which are nothing more than debates 
about current events, now more than ever supplemented with 
comments harvested from social media. 

Typically, the hashtag that organizes a conversation is a 
highly polarizing proper noun that inspires people to pick a 
position in a discussion about it. For instance, in 2011, UK 
Uncut organizers started staging protests at Vodafone stores, 
organizing under the hashtag #UKUncut, to reframe the dis- 
cussion about austerity to focus on corporate tax dodgers rather 
than public spending. The role of the organizer practicing 
hashtag politics is to polarize a discussion effectively, and then 


THEORY: Hashtag politics 




curate the conversation to make your side more compelling. 

The hashtag is a framing device that helps define the values 
associated with a particular political position. To effectively 
practice hashtag politics, it’s important to strategically and 
proactively define the hashtag you wish to organize the con- 
versation around. If your hashtag is well chosen, you will draw 
more people to your side of the debate. 

A hashtag could be any number of things. Using narrative 
power analysis as one guide, you could choose to polarize a dis- 
cussion around a character in your story — either a sympathetic 
character or a villain — or perhaps a scene of conflict that locates 
the problem we must face (like Wall Street, or the tar sands). 

In an increasingly socially mediated world, to craft a 
winning frame, it’s critical to convene and curate an effective 
conversation that centers on a strategically chosen subject. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Media-jacking p. 72 
Flash mob p. 46 
Human banner p. 56 
Distributed action p. 26 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Brand or be branded p. 104 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Stay on message p. 178 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Think narratively p. 1 86 

Balance art and message p. 100 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 
The propaganda model p. 256 
Memes p. 242 
Floating signifier p. 234 

CASE STUDIES 

Tar sands action p. 376 
Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 396 
Occupy Wall St. web 
Camp Casey web 


THEORY: Hashtag politics 


239 



THEORY: 

Intellectuals and power 


IN SUM 

Intellectuals should use their 
specialized knowledge to 
expose the machinations 
of power, utilize their posi- 
tion in institutions to amplify 
the voices of people strug- 
gling against oppression, 
and work tirelessly to reveal 
the ways that they them- 
selves are agents of power. 

ORIGINS 

Michel Foucault [1926-1984] 


PRACTITIONERS 

Michel Foucault 
Arundhati Roy 
Antonio Gramsci 
Noam Chomsky 
Vandana Shiva 
James Hansen 
Ricardo Dominguez 
Suzanne Lacy 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Zack Malitz 


240 


Michel Foucault was a French historian, social theorist and 
philosopher whose writings about power have had a profound 
impact on the humanities and the social sciences. The 
basic premise of Foucault’s work is that power today is 
not something that a small number of people possess and 
exert on everybody else, but rather a force that acts through 
every institution and relationship in society, so that our very 
sense of self is a product of its shaping force. 

Power, according to Foucault, is diffuse, decentralized and 
emanates from every corner of society, notjust the official seats 
of government. Resistance, too, is everywhere. Everywhere 
that people refuse to cooperate with institutional authority or 
to uncritically accept established patterns of social behavior, 
every time they attempt to re-organize social relationships 
according to different principles or rhythms, they resist power. 

People can only resist what 
they can see, however, so power 
is most effective when it remains 
invisible. People perceive power 
dynamics as immutable facts of 
life rather than as a historical 
situation that could be renegoti- 
ated. For this reason, intellectu- 
als, engaged in the production 
of knowledge, particularly 
social scientific knowledge, 
are inextricably linked to the 
operation of power — but also, 
potentially, to its resistance. Foucou)t , bQSjc premise (apparently qmte djscon . 

Intellectuals, as Foucault certi "9 t0 his “ ud ' en “ p‘ ctured here l is that p° wer ls 

a force that acts through every institution and rela- 

uses the term, are people who tionship in society, so that our very sense of self is a 
supply other people with praduc,ofi!sshapi " 9,ora - 

mental frames for understanding, interpreting and inter- 
acting with the world. Scientists and engineers who work 
for big tech companies are intellectuals, as are freelance 
software developers, amateur bloggers, professors and 
school teachers, doctors, lawyers, advertisers and bureaucrats 
of every stripe. 

For Foucault, the proper role of an intellectual is to 



THEORY: Intellectuals and power 




“People who face 
the business end 
of domination and 
exploitation don’t 
need intellectuals 
to tell them that 
they are oppressed 
- they know 
perfectly well.” 

of institutional power. 

Intellectuals act as agents of social change when they 
translate expert discourses such as law or economics into 
accessible language. Intellectuals, for Foucault, are at their 
best when, rather than telling us how the world should be, 
they show us that it could easily have been otherwise and, 
more importantly, that it need not remain the same. 


expose the machinations of 
power and the systems of know- 
ledge that justify, naturalize 
or conceal the operations of 
power. People who face the 
business end of domination 
and exploitation don’t need 
intellectuals to tell them that 
they are oppressed — they know 
perfectly well. What they 
need from intellectuals is 
not leadership, but resources, 
technical knowledge and assis- 
tance in navigating dense webs 


Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Make the invisible visible p. 15 2 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Team up with experts p. 184 


THEORY: Intellectuals and power 


241 



THEORY: 

Memes 


IN SUM 

Memes [rhymes with 
“dreams”] are self-replicating 
units of cultural information 
that spread virally from mind 
to mind, network to network, 
generation to generation. 

ORIGINS 

Term coined by evolutionary 
biologist Richard Dawkins 
in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. 

First connected to social change 
strategies by Kalle Lasn of 
Adbusters magazine. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Adbusters 
smartMeme 
Robbie Conal 
Women in Black 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Patrick R einsborough 
Doyle Canning 


242 


“Although the term 
may be relatively 
new, memes have 
always been used 
by social movements 
to spread stories 
of liberation 
and change ” 


How do ideas spread? How does cultural change happen? 
How does a symbol become a shared point of connection for 
a movement? Through memes! Understanding how to intro- 
duce and spread memes is a 
crucial skill for anyone who 
seeks to shift public opinion or 
cultural practices. 

A meme is like a piece of 
cultural DNA that evolves as it 
passes from person to person. 

The term is derived from the 
ancient Greek word mimema, 
meaning, something imitated 
Playing on the word “gene,” 

Richard Dawkins coined the 
term as a way of understand- 
ing how cultural practices 
spread. A meme is any unit of culture that has spread beyond 
its creator — buzz words, catchy melodies, fashion trends, 
ideas, rituals, iconic images, and so on. 

Unscrupulous power-holders have shown considerable 
skill at designing memes that spread their stories through the 
culture: death panels, weapons of 
mass destruction, the war on ter- 
ror, union bosses and tax relief are 
all memes that have become 
part of the public discourse. A 
meme is like a viral frame that 
allows a story to spread, carry- 
ing a certain worldview with it. 

Although the term may 
be relatively new, memes have 
always been used by social 
movements to spread stories of 
liberation and change, from No taxation without representation 
to Black is beautiful to living wage. The incredible spread of 
Occupy Wall Street’s meme we are the 99% has shown not only 
how a good meme can spread a powerful social change message 
but also how a shared meme can serve as an organizing tool. 


“A good meme 
can spread 
a powerful social 
change message 
and a shared meme 
can serve as an 
organizing tool." 


THEORY: M ernes 




Computer assisted reconstruction of a rotavirus particle. 

Effective memes are memorable, easy to spread and “sticky.” 
In other words they linger in our consciousness, connect with 
our existing thinking and are easily passed on through our 
communications and actions. A meme that embodies a mes- 
sage and spreads rapidly can dramatically increase the impact 
of an action or campaign. 


IMPORTANT CAVEAT: A potent meme alone will not win a cam- 
paign or trigger systemic change. The right meme can, however, 
help people-powered organizing be exponentially more 
effective and influential by helping a message, an idea, or a 
rallying cry go viral. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Adbusters Magazine 

www.adbusters.org 

Know Your Meme: The Internet 
Meme Database 

http://knowyourmeme.com 

Kalle Lasn. Culture Jam: How to Stop 
America's Suicidal Consumer Binge - 
And Why We Must. New York, NY: 

Harper Collin Publishers Inc., 2000. 

Andrew Boyd. “Truth is a Virus: 

Meme Warfare and the Billionaires 
for Bush [or Gore).'' In Cultural 
Resistance Reader, edited by 
Stephen Duncombe. Verso, 2002. 

Jonah Peretti & Contagious Media Projects 

http://contagiousmedia.org 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Media-jacking p. 72 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Think narratively p. 186 

Brand or be branded p. 104 

Seek common ground p. 170 

Stay on message p. 178 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Make your own myths web 

THEORIES 

Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Hashtag politics p. 238 
Floating signifier p. 234 
The propaganda model p. 256 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Networks and Netwars web 


CASE STUDIES 

99% bat signal p. 278 
Yomango p. 400 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 
Occupy Wall Street web 


THEORY: Memes 


243 




THEORY: 

Narrative 


power analysis 


IN SUM 

All power relations have a 
narrative dimension. Narrative 
power analysis is a systematic 
methodology for examining 
the stories that abet the 
powers that be in order to 
better challenge them. 

ORIGINS 

Developed by the smartMeme 
Strategy & Training Project 

PRACTITIONERS 

Abbie Hoffman 
Greenpeace 
ACT-UP 

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Patrick Reinsborough 
Doyle Canning 


244 


Human beings are literally hardwired for narrative. Stories are 
the threads of our lives and weave together to form the fabric 
of human cultures. A story can inform or deceive, enlighten or 
entertain, or all of the above at once. We live in a world shaped 
by stories. 

A traditional power analysis gives organizers and activists 
an understanding of the power 
relations and institutional 
dynamics among key target 
decision makers and allies. 

Narrative power analysis provides 
a framework to extend power 
analysis into narrative space — 
the intangible realm of stories, 
ideas, and assumptions that 
frame public perception of the 
situation and the players in 
question. Narrative helps de- 
fine what is normal and what is 
legitimate, as well as the limits 
of what is politically possible. All power relations have such a 
narrative component. 

Narrative power analysis is based on the recognition that 
the currency of story is not truth, but meaning. That is, what 
makes a story powerful is not necessarily facts, but how the 
story creates meaning in the hearts and minds of the listeners. 
Therefore, the obstacle to convincing people is often not what 
they don’t yet know but actually what they already do know. 
In other words, people’s existing assumptions and beliefs can 
act as narrative filters to prevent them from hearing social 
change messages. A narrative power analysis seeks to unearth 
the hidden building blocks of these pernicious narratives, so 
that a narrative of liberation can better challenge them. 

For example, in a traditional power analysis, a group of 
neighbors organizing against a proposed commercial develop- 
ment might determine that the mayor and the city council are 
the ultimate decision makers and are influenced by the devel- 
opers’ campaign contributions and by the opinions of voters in 
X precinct. Next, the group can build on that understanding 


wna r makes a 
story powerful is 
not necessarily 
facts, but how 
the story creates 
meaning in the 
hearts and minds 
of the listeners ” 


THEORY: Narrative power analysis 



with a narrative power analysis of the story and memes the devel- 
opers are using to promote their agenda. This means carefully 
examining the developers’ narrative on its own terms: how do 
they frame the problem they say they are solving? Who are their 
messengers? How do they portray the community? What are 
their unstated assumptions? 

For instance, the developers may have framed their narra- 
tive around “bringingjobs to the neighborhood.” Armed with 
clarity about the developer’s narrative, the neighborhood 
group can now craft their own 
narrative and design a strategy 
to isolate the developer. Perhaps 
they decide to organize those 
same small business owners 
that the developer claims to represent. Perhaps they organize 
a jobs fair to show that there are other ways to create 
employment. If the developers are counting on a “You can’t tight 
City Hall,” attitude, organizers make sure that their campaign 
narrative emphasizes how people power has won victories in 
the past. In short, the group challenges notjust the economic 
and political forces they face, but also the narratives that back 
those forces up, that legitimate them and allow those forces to 
threaten their community. 

Current realities are often rooted in oppressive narratives. 
Our role as change agents is to undermine these narratives 
and replace them with new stories that help build a fairer, 
freer world. 


“The currency of 
story is not truth , 
but meaning. ” 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

smart Meme, “Narrative power 
analysis worksheet" 

http://trb.la/xV0R4S 

Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough. 
Redmagining Change: An Introduction to 
Story-Based Strategy, smart Meme, 2009. 

http://trb.la/ABaDFt 

Center for Media Justice, “Toolbox” 

http://centerformediajustice.org/toolbox 

Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Think narratively p. 18 6 
Reframe p. 188 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

Choose tactics that support 

your strategy p. 112 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Stay on message p. 178 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Seek common ground p. 170 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Hashtag politics p. 238 
Action logic p. 208 
Memes p. 242 

The propaganda model p. 2 56 

CASE STUDIES 

Whose tea party? p. 392 
Harry Potter Alliance p. 322 
Citizens' Posse p. 300 
Billionaires for Bush p. 296 


THEORY: Narrative power analysis 


245 



THEORY: 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed 


Over a lifetime of work with revolutionary organizers and edu- 
cators, radical educator Paulo Freire created an approach to 
emancipatory education and a lens through which to under- 
stand systems of oppression in order to transform them. He 
flipped mainstream pedagogy on its head by insisting that true 
knowledge and expertise already exist within people. They 
need no “deposits” of information (what Freire calls “banking 
education”), nor do they need leftist propaganda to convince 
them of their problems. What is required to transform the 
world is dialogue, critical questioning, love for humanity, and 
praxis, the synthesis of critical reflection and action. 

In short, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is education as a practice of 
freedom, which Freire contrasts with education as a practice of 
domination see chart below. 


IN SUM 

An approach to education that 
aims to transform oppressive 
structures by engaging people 
who have been marginalized 
and dehumanized and drawing 
on what they already know. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Education either functions as 
an instrument which is used to 
facilitate integration of the 
younger generation into the 
logic of the present system 
and bring about conformity 
or it becomes the practice of 
freedom, the means by which 
men and women deal critically 
and creatively with reality and 
discover how to participate in 
the transformation of their world.” 

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed 

ORIGINS 

Paulo Freire first outlined his widely 
influential theory of education in 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed [1968). 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Levana Saxon 
Virginia Vitzthum 


Banking education 

education as the practice of 
domination 


Goal is to adapt people to 
their oppressive conditions. 

Teacher attempts to control 
thinking and action of the 
students, who are treated as 
passive objects. 

Assumes that people are merely 
in the world, not connected to it 
or each other. 

Removes students from 

their context; teaches reality as 

unchangeable. 

Treats oppressed people as 
marginal to a healthy society and 
in need of incorporation into it. 

Fundamental to maintaining 
systems of oppression. 


Problem-posing education 

education as a practice of 
freedom 

Goal is to transform structural 
oppression. 

Both educator and educand 
(Freire ’s word for “student,” 
designed to convey an equitable 
and reciprocal relationship) 
teach and learn from each other. 

Assumes the world is an unfolding 
historical process; everything and 
everyone is interrelated. 

Begins with the educands’ history, 
present and unwritten future. 

Seeks to transform society to 
rehumanize both the oppressed 
and their oppressors. 

Fundamental to the revolutionary 
process. 


Dialogue and participatory action research are two practices 
heavily influenced by Freire that are now common in the fields of 


246 


THEORY: Pedagogy of the oppressed 



“Many progressive 
movements today 
are still trapped 
in the ‘ banking ’ 
approach to 
education, seeing 
the public as a 
passive receptacle 
of their information.” 

generate action. 

Participatory action research, meanwhile, is a community-led 
process in which people determine solutions to their problems by 
gathering data from their peers, analyzing it, and then taking in- 
formed action. It’s a model of community organizing that builds 
the capacity and expertise of those on the front lines. 

Unfortunately, many progressive movements today are still 
trapped in the “banking” approach to education, seeing the 
public as a passive receptacle of their information. According 
to Freire, transforming the world requires flipping this model 
and replacing it with ground-up practices of emancipatory 
education, organizing and action. 


popular education, critical peda- 
gogy, Theater of the Oppressed, 
and eco-pedagogy. Freire explains 
that what most people think of 
as dialogue is really just debate, a 
zero-sum game in which people 
compete to deposit ideas into 
one another or name the world 
on behalf of others as an end in 
itself. In dialogue, on the other 
hand, bodi parties work together 
to name their world by explor- 
ing their lived experiences to 
identify common patterns and 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: In the United States, Freire has in- 
spired the movement for “critical pedagogy,” which seeks to re- 
construct both schools and society. Around the world, Freire ’s 
work has been used by many revolutionary movements (such 
as Amilcar Cabral in Guinea Bissau, the Landless Workers’ 
Movement in Brazil, and the Zapatistas in Mexico) , by popular 
literacy campaigns, and in the World Social Forums. 


PRACTITIONERS 

Augusto Boal 
bell hooks 
Michael Apple 
Henry Giroux 
M aocir G adotti 
Carlos Alberto Torres 
Richard Kahn 
Highlander Center 
Colectivo Flatlander 
Project South PILA 
Practicing Freedom 
Data Center 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Paulo Freire Institute 

www.paulofreireinstitute.org 

The Popular Education News 

www.popednews.org 

Project South: Institute for the 
Elimination of Poverty and Genocide 

www.projectsouth.org 

Green Theory and Praxis: The 
Journal of Ecopedagog y 

www.greentheoryandpraxis.org 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Forum theater p. 48 
Image theater p. 62 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Consensus is a means, not an end p. 116 
Don't just brainstorm, artstorm! p. 128 
We are all leaders p. 202 


MIS-APPLICATION: Some educators take the words “popular 
education” to simply mean taking complex information and 
dumbing it down or sloganizing it, a misguided approach 
rooted in the very idea that Pedagogy of the Oppressed op- 
poses: that the educators are experts while the students are 
empty and passive receptacles awaiting knowledge. 


THEORIES 

Anti-oppression p. 212 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 

CASE STUDIES 

Daycare center sit-in p. 316 


247 


THEORY: Pedagogy of the oppressed 



THEORY: 

Pillars of support 


IN SUM 

Power stems not just from 
a ruler’s ability to use force, 
but from the consent and 
cooperation of the ruled, 
which can be voluntarily and 
nonviolently withdrawn 
by identifying, targeting 
and undermining the ruler’s 
“pillars of support” - the 
institutions and organiza- 
tions that sustain its power. 

ORIGINS 

Gandhi, Gene Sharp, Robert Helvey 

PRACTITIONERS 

Otpor 

CANVAS 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Helvey, Robert. On Strategic Nonviolent 
Conflict: Thinking about the 
Fundamentals. Boston: Albert 
Einstein Institution, 2004. 

Sharp, Gene. Waging Nonviolent 
Struggle: Twentieth-Century Practice 
and Twenty-First-Century Potential. 
Boston: Porter Sargent, 2005. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Eric Stoner 


248 


Conventional wisdom tells 
us that power resides in the 
hands of those at the top, 
and that when push comes 
to shove, “power grows out of 
the barrel of a gun,” as Mao 
famously said. If so, then the 
only way to defeat a violent 
opponent is through the use 
of even greater violence. 

At the root of all nonviolent 
action, however, is a different 
understanding of the nature 
of power — one that flips 
this conventional wisdom on 
its head. This understanding 
posits that power is ultimately 
dependent on the cooperation 
and obedience of large num- 
bers of people acting through the institutions that constitute 
the state. These are its pillars of support. 

Some of these pillars, such as the military, the police 
and the courts, are coercive in nature, compelling obedi- 
ence through force or the threat thereof, while other pillars, 
like the media, education system and religious institutions, 
support the system through their influence over culture and 
popular opinion. Hence, the power of even the most char- 
ismatic or ruthless leader is contingent upon the support of 
key institutions, themselves vulnerable to popular action or 
withdrawal of consent from the general population. 

Once people decide they no longer accept the status quo 
and begin to resist, the balance of power shifts. For example, 
when millions of Americans participated in the successful 
five-year national boycott of grapes led by Cesar Chavez to 
improve the pay and workers conditions of exploited farm 
workers; when tens of thousands of activists effectively shut 
down the World Trade Organization gathering in Seattle in 
1999 by blocking the streets and entrances to the convention 
center; when thousands of U.S. soldiers refuse to deploy or 



Cesar Chavez leading a supermarket protest to 
boycott grapes. Mass withdrawal of consent through 
tactics like this United Farm Worker’s boycott can be 
extremely effective at pressuring power-holders. 


THEORY: Pillars of support 



redeploy to the wars in Iraq or 
Afghanistan, the power of the 
powerful is constrained, and 
can, in extreme situations, 
disintegrate entirely. 

For activists, the key take- 
away lesson of the pillars of 
support concept is to identify 
a ruling target’s pillars of sup- 
port, determine which can be 
won over and how see PRINCI- 
PLE: Shift the spectrum of allies, 
and then set about working to 
win over, or at least neutralize, 
those pillars of support, so that 
the foundation that sustains 
the target begins to crumble. 

Power ultimately rests not 
in the grip of presidents, gener- 
als and billionaires, but in the 
hands of millions of ordinary 
people who keep society run- 
ning smoothly on a day-to-day 
basis, and who can shut it down should they so choose. This is 
the meaning of the slogan people power. One of the principle 
reasons that so many injustices persist is not that the powerful 
can simply do whatever they want with impunity, but because 
most people are ignorant of the power they can wield by 
withdrawing their consent see TACTIC: General strike. 

This understanding of power has been repeatedly 
vindicated in recent decades, as numerous dictators and 
extremely repressive regimes were toppled by unarmed 
people with minimal violence but much courage and creativity. 
These successful nonviolent struggles simply cannot be 
explained by someone who sees violence as the only, or 
even the primary, mechanism of power. 


“ Power ultimately 
rests not in the 
grip of presidents, 
generals and 
billionaires, but in 
the hands of 
millions of ordinary 
people who keep 
society running 
smoothly on a 
day-to-day basis, 
and who can shut 
it down should 
they so choose ” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Mass street action p. 68 
General strike p. 50 
Occupation p. 78 

PRINCIPLES 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
If protest is made illegal, 
make daily life a protest p. 138 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
One no, many yesses web 

THEORIES 

The propaganda model p. 2 56 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Points of intervention p. 250 

CASE STUDIES 
Otpor web 
CANVAS web 


THEORY: Pillars of support 


249 



THEORY: 

Points of intervention 


IN SUM 

A point of intervention 
is a physical or 
conceptual place within 
a system where presure 
can be put to disrupt 
its smooth functioning 
and push for change. 

ORIGINS 

smartMeme 

PRACTITIONERS 

Social movements 
smartMeme 
Ruckus Society 
Design Studio for Social Intervention 
Operation SalAMI 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

smart Meme, “Resources" 
http://smartmeme.org/section.php?id=86 

Patrick Reinsborough & Doyle Canning, 
Re:lmagining Change [PM Press, 2010). 

Doyle Canning & Patrick Reinsborough, 
Story-based Strategies for Action Design. 

http://trb.la/w4DWB2 

Patrick Reinsborough, “De-Colonizing the 
Revolutionary Imagination,” Globalize 
Liberation, edited by David Solnit [San 
Francisco: City Lights Press, 1994). 

Destructables, “How to Hold Up a Bank" 

http://destructables.org/node/47 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Patrick Reinsborough 
Doyle Canning 


250 


Points of intervention are specific places in a system where 
a targeted action can effectively interrupt the functioning 
of a system and open the way to change. By understanding 
these different points, organizers can develop a strategy that 
identifies the best places to intervene in order to have the 
greatest impact. 

Social movements have tra- 
ditionally intervened by taking 
direct action at physical points 
in the systems that shape 
our lives, but with the spread 
of effective labor organizing 
and the increasing power of 
media, conceptual points of 
intervention have become in- 
creasingly important. 

Truly effective interventions 
go beyond simply disrupting 
a system to pose a deeper 
challenge to its underlying assumptions and basic legitimacy. 
This holds true whether the intervention targets a physical 
system like a sweatshop or an ideological system like racism, 
sexism, or market fundamentalism. 

The five types of points of intervention are points of 
production (for instance, a factory), points of destruction 
(a logging road), points of consumption (a retail store), points 
of decision (a corporate headquarters) and points of assumption 
(a foundational narrative or a place of symbolic importance) . 

Point of production 

Action at the point of production is the foundational insight 
of the labor movement. Workers organize to target the 
economic system where it directly affects them, and 
where that system is most vulnerable. Strikes, picket lines, 
work slowdowns, and factory take-overs are all point-of- 
production actions. 

Point of destruction 

AA point of destruction is the place where harm or 


wiw we 
increasing 
power of media, 
conceptual points 
of intervention 
have become 
increasingly 
important ” 


THEORY: Points of intervention 



injustice is actually occurring. It could be the place where 
resources are being extracted (a strip mine) or the place 
where the waste from the point of production is dumped 
(a land-fill). By design, the point of destruction is al- 
most always far from public attention — made invisible by 
remoteness, oppressive assumptions, or ignorance — and 
tends to disproportionately impact already marginalized 
communities. Intervention at the point of destruction 
can halt an act of destruction in the moment, as well as 
dramatize the larger conflict. 



Intervention at the point of decision. Image by Grassy Narrows Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek. 

Point of consumption 

The point of consumption is the location of interaction 
with a product or service that is linked to injustice. Point- 
of-consumption actions are the traditional arena of 
consumer boycotts and storefront demonstrations. The 
point of consumption is often the most visible point 
of intervention for actions targeting commercial entities. 
Point-of-consumption actions can also be a good way 
to get the attention of corporations when lawmakers 
aren’t listening. 

Point of decision 

The point of decision, where the power to act on a 
campaign’s demands rests, is often the most self-evident 
point of intervention, and therefore one of the most 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLES 

Reframe p. 168 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 166 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Stay on message p. 178 
Think narratively p. 186 
Bring the issue home p. 106 

THEORIES 

Pillars of support p. 248 
Power structure analysis web 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Capitalism p. 216 
Activist realpolitik web 

CASE STUDIES 

Barbie Liberation Organization p. 282 

Daycare center sit-in p. 316 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 

Colbert roasts Bush p. 308 

Bidder 70 p. 290 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 

The salt march p. 354 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 

Tar sands action p. 376 


THEORY: Points of intervention 



frequently targeted. Whether it’s a slumlord’s office see 
CASE: Daycare center sit-in, a corporate boardroom or 
state capital, or an international summit meeting see CASE: 
Battle in Seattle, many successful campaigns have used some 
form of action at the point of decision to put pressure on 
key decision-makers. 

Point of assumption 

Assumptions are the building blocks of ideology, the DNA 
of political belief systems. They operate best when they 
remain unexamined. If basic assumptions can be exposed 
as contrary to people’s lived experience or core values, 
entire belief systems can be shifted. Actions that expose 
and target widely held assumptions see CASE: Billionaires for 
Bush and CASE: Barbie Liberation Organization can therefore 
be very effective at shifting the discourse around an issue 
and opening up new political space. Point-of-assumption 
actions can take many different forms, such as exposing 
hypocrisy, reframing the issue, amplifying the voices of 
previously silenced characters in the story, or offering an 
alternative vision see TACTIC: Prefigurative intervention. 

Turning creative action into real change requires careful 
strategizing. Identifying different possible points to target is 
a great first step to help design actions that connect to large 
campaign and social change goals. 


252 


THEORY: Points of intervention 


IF YOU 
DON'T 
LIKE THE 
NEWS... 

GO OUT AND 
MAKE SOME 
OF YOUR 
OWN. 


Wes “Scoop” Nisker 




THEORY: 

Political identity paradox 


IN SUM 

Group identity offers embattled 
activists a cohesive community, 
but also tends to foster a 
subculture that can be alienating 
to the public at large. Balancing 
these two tendencies is crucial 
to sustaining the work of an 
effective group, organization 
or movement. 

ORIGINS 

Formulated by Jonathan Matthew 
Smucker, influenced by Robert Putnam 
on bonding and bridging, Antonio 
Gramsci on hegemonic strategy and 
Frederick D. Miller on encapsulation. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Students for a 
Democratic Society (SDS) 
Student Nonviolent 
Coordinating Committee [SNCC] 
Situationist International 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

“The Political Identity Paradox I Evolu- 
tionary logic of collective action pt. Ill” 

“Bonding & Bridging / Populism 
& Flegemony pt.3" 

“Activists Caught in the Filter Bubble" 

“What Prevents Radicals from Acting 
Strategically? [pt.2: Encapsulation ij” 

All articles by Jonathan Matthew Smucker 

www.beyondthechoir.org 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jonathan Matthew Smucker 


254 


Any serious social movement needs a correspondingly serious 
group identity that encourages a core of members to contrib- 
ute an exceptional level of commitment, sacribce and heroics 
over the course of prolonged struggle. Strong group identity, 
however, is a double-edged sword. The stronger the identity 
and cohesion of the group, the more likely people are to 
become alienated from other groups, and from society. This is 
the political identity paradox. 

The political identity paradox suggests that while political 
groups require a strong internal identity to foster the 
commitment needed for effective political struggle, this same 
cohesion tends to isolate the group. Isolated groups are hard- 
pressed to achieve political goals. 

This is true of all groups, but tends to have particular 
consequences for a group involved in political struggle, which 
has not only to foster a strong internal identity: it also has to 
win allies. 

The tendency toward isolation can escalate very quickly in 
political groups, as oppositional struggle can foster an oppo- 
sitional psychology. Activists who meet the kind of brutal re- 
sistance that the civil eights movement endured, for example, 
have a tough row to hoe. On the one hand, participants need 
to turn to each other more than ever for strength and support. 
They feel a compelling cohesiveness to their group identity in 
these moments of escalated conflict. On the other hand, they 
need to keep outwardly oriented, to stay connected to a broad 
and growing base. This is difficult to do even when leaders are 
fully oriented to the task, let alone when they are unprepared, 
which is often the case. 

Take, for example, Students for a Democratic Society (the 
original SDS that fell apart in dramatic fashion in 1969). At 
the center of the epic implosion of this massive student orga- 
nization — beneath the rational arguments that leaders were 
slinging at each other — was the political identity paradox. 
Key leaders had become encapsulated in their oppositional 
identity and grown more and more out of touch. They lost the 
ability and inclination to relate to their broader membership — 
a huge number of students at the moment of the implosion — 
let alone to broader society. Some of the most committed 


THEORY: Political identity paradox 



would-be leaders of that generation came to see more value in 
holing up with a few comrades to make bombs than in organiz- 
ing masses of students to take coordinated action. 

This is the tendency toward isolation taken to the ex- 
treme. Dedicated radicals cut themselves off, like lone guerrilla 



Related: 

PRINCIPLES 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Pace yourself p. 158 

No one wants to watch a 

drum circle p. 1 56 

Use your radical fringe to 

slide the Overton window p. 200 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Enable, don't command p. 132 

Consensus is a means, not an end p. 116 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Cycles of social movements web 


By donning crash helmets, smashing windows and choosing to clash with the police during the Days of Rage protests 
that were organized in the wake of the 1969 Democratic Convention riot in Chicago, the Weatherman faction of SDS 
alienated many would-be supporters. 

fighters in enemy territory. It might have felt glorious, but it 
was a suicide mission. 

The political identity paradox speaks to the need for politi- 
cal groups to develop both strong bonding and strong bridging. 
Without strong within-group bonding, group members will lack 
the level of commitment required for serious struggles. But 
without strong beyond-group bridging, the group will become 
too insular and isolated to forge broad alliances. 

Good leaders have to perform an extraordinary balancing 
act between the conflicting imperatives of building a strong 
sense of identity within their groups and connecting with allies 
and potential allies beyond the group see PRINCIPLE: Escalate 
strategically for ideas on how to strike this balance. 


THEORY: Political identity paradox 


255 


e propaganda model 


IN SUM 

The propaganda model 
seeks to explain the behavior 
of news media operating 
within a capitalist economy. 
The model suggests that media 
outlets will consistently 
produce news content that 
aligns with the interests of 
political and economic elites. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Any dictator would admire 
the uniformity and obedience 
of the U.S. media.” 

-Noam Chomsky 

ORIGINS 

Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky 

PRACTITIONERS 

Media Lens 
Glenn Greenwald 
Jeffrey Klaehn 
Andrew Mullen 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Simon Enoch 


The propaganda model seeks to explain media behavior by 
examining the institutional pressures that constrain and 
influence news content within a profit-driven system. In 
contrast to liberal theories that argue that journalism is ad- 
versarial to established power, the propaganda model predicts 
that corporate-owned news media will consistently produce 
news content that serves the interests of established power. 



The mass media often serves as a tool to manufacture consent, operating on unchallenged premises that serve the 
narrow interests of political and economic elites. 


First introduced in 1988 in Edward S. Herman’s and 
Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent: The Political Econ- 
omy of the Mass Media, the propaganda model argues that 
“the raw material of news” passes through five biters that 
ultimately shape the news audiences receive. These biters 
determine what events are deemed newsworthy, how they are 
covered, where they are placed within the media and how 
much coverage they receive. 

The bve biters are as follows: 


Concentrated ownership, owner wealth and profit-orientation 
of the dominant mass-media firms. Corporate media brms 
share common interests with other sectors of the economy, 
and therefore have a real stake in maintaining an economic 


THEORY: The Propaganda model 



and political climate that is conducive to their profitability. 
They are unlikely to be critical of economic or political 
policies that directly benefit them. 

Advertising as primary source of income. To remain profit- 
able, most media rely on advertising dollars for the bulk 
of their revenue. It is therefore against the interests of 
the news media to produce content that might antagonize 
advertisers. 


Reliance on information provided by “expert” and official 
sources. Elites have the resources to routinely “facilitate” 
the news-gathering process by providing photo-ops, 
news conferences, press releases, think-tank reports and 
canned news pieces that take advantage of the news 
media’s need for continuous 
and cheap news content. 

Business leaders, politicians 
and government officials 
are also typically viewed 
as credible and unbiased 
sources of information, 
jettisoning the need for 
fact-checking or other cost- 
ly background research. 

Thisfilterwasclearlydemon- 


“ We can develop 
media tactics that 
take advantage of 
the contradictions 
within corporate- 
sponsored 

, journalism ” 

strated during the run-up 

to the 2003 Iraq War, when the U.S. news media took 
official pronouncements at face value, refusing to inves- 
tigate their veracity or accuracy. 


Flak as a means of disciplining the media. Flak refers to 
negative commentary to a news story that can work to 
police and discipline journalists or news organizations 
that stray too far outside the consensus. Flak includes 
complaints, lawsuits, petitions or government sanctions. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Herman, Edward S. “The Propaganda 
Model Revisited.'' 

Monthly Review [July 1996], 

http://trb.la/Admvz3 

Klaehn, Jeffrey. “A Critical Review and 
Assessment of Herman and Chomsky's 
‘Propaganda Model.' " 

http://trb.la/xbuy8Y 

Mullen, Andrew. “The Propaganda Model 
after 20 Years: Interview with Edward 
S. Herman and Noam Chomsky." 

http://trb.la/wTyBjz 

Media Lens 

www.medialens.org 

Salon, Glenn G reenwald 

http://www.salon.com/writer/ 

glenn_greenwald/ 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Identity correction p. 60 
Electoral guerrilla theater p. 40 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Guerrilla newspaper p. 52 

PRINCIPLES 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Reframe p. 168 

Stay on message p. 178 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Use your radical fringe to slide 

the Overton window p. 200 

Consider your audienece p. 118 

THEORIES 

Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Pillars of support p. 248 


An external enemy or threat. Manifesting as “anti-commu- CASE STUDIES 

nism” during the Cold War period when Manufacturing Colbert roasts Bush p.308 

Consent was originally published, this filter still operates, New York Times “Special Edition” web 

particularly in the post-9/11 political climate. This filter 

mobilizes the population against a common enemy 

(terrorism, energy insecurity, Iran...) while demonizing 


THEORY: The Propaganda model 


257 


opponents of state policy as insufficiently patriotic or in 
league with the enemy. 

The propaganda model suggests that corporate media 
ultimately serve to “manufacture consent” for a narrow 
range of self-serving elitist policy options. It allows us to 
understand the institutional pressures that ultimately color 
how activists’ causes and actions are covered. By understanding 
the limits of “objectivity” and the contradictions within corpo- 
rate-sponsored journalism, we can develop media tactics that 
take advantage of these contradictions while also bypassing 
the filters of the corporate press, and directly appealing 
to the public through alternative forms of media. As Herman 
himself suggests, “we would like to think that the propaganda 
model can help activists understand where they might 
best deploy their efforts to influence mainstream media 
coverage of issues.” 1 


1 Edward S. Herman, “The Propaganda Model Revisited,” Monthly Review Quly 1996). 


258 


THEORY: The Propaganda model 


V -»4’ 

o a 



Banksy says it best. 


THEORY: The Propaganda model 


259 




THEORY: 

Revolutionary nonviolence 


(or “The marriage of Gandhi and Che") 


IN SUM 

Revolutionary nonviolence 
emphasizes unity among 
radicals and proposes a 
militant nonviolent praxis 
based on revolutionary 
transformation and 
mass civil resistance. 

ORIGINS 

Chicago 7 defendant Dave Dellinger ; 
civil rights and feminist icon Barbara 
Deming in her essay “Revolution and 
Equilibrium the Plowshares movement. 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Zapatista Army of 
National Liberation [EZLN] 
Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement 
Situationist International 
Greenpeace 
Earth First! 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Matt Meyer 


260 


For activists working for radical change, there is a useful 
distinction to be made between Gandhian, strategic and revolu- 
tionary nonviolence. Gandhian nonviolence is a combination 
of constructive, base-building programs and satyagraha, 
often interpreted in the Global North as a form of 
spiritual direct action. Strategic nonviolence see TACTIC takes 
a more tactical tack and focuses on the tactics enumerated 
by Gene Sharp. Meanwhile, as Gandhi himself noted, revo- 
lutionary nonviolence suggests that it is better to engage in 
violence than to do nothing in the face of oppression, 1 and 
that any popular movement must push beyond mere 
reformist change that leaves structures of oppression intact, 
even though this requires active confrontation. 

Indian activistjayaprakash (JP) Narayan made important 
advances in this line of thinking, calling for “total revolution” 
in a framework that included anti-authoritarianism, non- 
orthodox Marxism and self-determination for all peoples. As 
a campaigner at the time of the Chinese communist revolu- 
tion, JP’s main critique of Mao Zedong’s maxim that “power 
grows out of the barrel of a gun” was the simple observation 
that those with the most destructive weapons were never the 
masses of the population, but rather those with the most 
entrenched power and authority. JP suggested that Mao’s 
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (at least in its core 
intentions) bore striking similarities to satyagraha, in that 
both were meant to combat a profit-motivated mentality, and 
both sought to disarm the exploiting classes. 

The greatest successes of the Chinese and Vietnamese 
strategy of people’s war — which calls for mobile tactics 
and the creation of clandestine fighting units — often lay in 
the implementation of popular education programs, the 
creation of self-sufficient economic units and the formation 
of mass-based organizations. The military successes were 
more ambiguous. Even in the heat of battle, some of the 
leaders of Africa’s liberation wars, most notably Amilcar 
Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, commanded his followers to be 
“militants, not militarists.” The widely repeated South 


THEORY: Revolutionary nonviolence 



African dictum that “nonvio- 
lence just didn’t work” in the 
ultra-repressive context of the 
racist apartheid regime has 
been refuted in post-apartheid 
society, as even organizers of 
the armed struggle now open- 
ly question the ways in which 
authoritarian styles grew out 
of their military structures. 

In the U.S. context, main- 
stream academics are begin- 
ning to discuss what many 
African American activists 
have quietly understood for decades: that the ideological 
and tactical differences between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
and Minister Malcolm X were never as contradictory or diver- 
gent as the popular narrative would have us believe. As each 
developed and matured, their analyses of the nature of the 
U.S. state, and the variety of approaches needed to resist it, 
increasingly converged. 

The theory of revolutionary nonviolence demands a nu- 
anced view of struggle, one that does not over-emphasize the 
dichotomy between nonviolent and armed revolutionaries — 
that neither celebrates passivity nor fetishizes confron- 
tation. It embraces the contributions of Archbishop 
Desmond Tutu’s Ubuntu philosophy: the notion that everyone’s 
liberation is indelibly connected. Advocates of revolution- 
ary nonviolence must include an adherence to strategic 
nonviolence, but also must maintain dialogues well beyond 
those who agree with that framework. 



1 “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts," Gandhi said, “than to put on the cloak 
of nonviolence to cover impotence." Mahadev Desai, Day-to-Day with Gandhi (Secretary's Diary] Vol. 
II (Rajghat, India: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, 1968], p. 175. See also: Mark Shepard's Mahatma 
Gandhi and His Myths: Civil Disobedience, Nonviolence, and Satyagraha in the Real World, http:// 
www.markshep.com/peace/Myths.html 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea (New 
York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1970). 

James H. Cone, Martin and Malcolm 
and America: A Dream or a Nightmare? 
(M aryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992). 

Barbara Demin g, “On Revolution and 
Equilibrium," AJ Muste Memorial 
Institute Essay Series Pamphlet 
#2 (New York, NY: AJMMI, 198 5), 

http://www.ajmuste. 0 rg/pamphlet.htm #2 

Dave Dellinger, Revolutionary 
Nonviolence (New York, NY: 

Anchor Doubleday, 1971) 

Frantz F anon, The Wretched of the Earth 
(New York, NY: Grove Press, 2005) 

Jayakapresh Narayan, Toward Total 
Revolution (Bombay: Brahmanand 
Popular Prakashan, 1978) 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
General strike p. 50 
Mass street action p. 68 
Direct action p. 32 
Blockade p. 14 

PRINCIPLES 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 166 

Choose tactics that support 

your strategy p. 112 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

THEORIES 

Pillars of support p. 248 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Intellectuals and power p. 240 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 

CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
The salt march p. 354 


THEORY: Revolutionary nonviolence 



THEORY: 

e shock doctrine 


IN SUM 

Pro-corporate neoliberals 
treat crises such as wars, 
coups, natural disasters 
and economic downturns as 
prime opportunities to impose 
an agenda of privatization, 
deregulation, and cuts to 
social services. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Only a crisis - actual or 
perceived - produces real change.” 

-Neoliberal economist Milton Friedman 

ORIGINS 

Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mark Engler, with research 
assistance by Eric Augenbraun 


The shock doctrine is a theory 
for explaining the way that 
force, stealth and crisis are 
used in implementing neo- 
liberal economic policies 
such as privatization, de- 
regulation and cuts to social 
services. Author Naomi Klein 
advanced this theory in her 
2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: 
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. 

By way of metaphor, Klein 
recounts the history of elec- 
troshock therapy experiments 
conducted by Scottish psychi- 
atrist Ewen Cameron for the 
CIA in the 1950s. Cameron’s “shock therapy” sought to return 
troubled patients to a blank slate on which he could write a 
new personality. Klein argues that a parallel “shock therapy” 
process has been used at the macro level to impose neolib- 
eral economic policies in countries around the world. 

The shock doctrine posits that in periods of disorientation 
following wars, coups, natural disasters and economic panics, 
pro-corporate reformers aggressively push through unpopular 
“free market” measures. For more than thirty years, Klein 
writes, followers of Milton Friedman and other market 
fundamentalists have been “perfecting this very strategy: 
waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state 
to private players while citizens were still reeling from the 
shock, then quickly making the ‘reforms’ permanent.” 

One of the earliest examples of the shock doctrine is the 
case of Chile. In 1973, Chile’s democratically elected socialist 
President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup d’etat 
led by army general Augusto Pinochet, with support from the 
United States. Amid lingering turmoil created by the coup 
and tensions caused by the ensuing economic downturn, 
Milton Friedman suggested that Pinochet implement a “shock 
program” of sweeping reforms including privatization of 
state-owned industries, elimination of trade barriers, and cuts 



262 


THEORY: The shock doctrine 




“ In periods of 
disorientation 
following wars, 
coups, natural 
disasters and 
economic panics, 
pro-corporate 
reformers 
aggressively push 
through unpopular 
‘ free market 1 
measures ” 


to government spending. To 
implement these policies, the 
Pinochet regime appointed to 
important positions several 
Chilean disciples of Friedman. 

Additionally, to squash popular 
movements that opposed these 
changes, the regime unleashed 
a notorious program of torture 
and “disappearances,” which 
ultimately led to the deaths of 
thousands of dissidents. 

Klein contends that various 
forms of the shock doctrine 
have since been used to advance 
hyper-capitalist reforms, for 
example in former Eastern 
Bloc countries following the 
collapse of the Soviet Union 
and in South Africa after the end of apartheid. More recently, 
pro-corporate advocates have used the 2004 tsunami in 
south Asia to privatize public beaches in Sri Lanka and have 
worked to slash corporate taxes and public education and 
re-shape neighborhoods in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. 
In each case we witness, in Klein’s words, “orchestrated raids 
on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, 
combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market 
opportunities.” 

Although the shock doctrine has helped explain neoliberal 
attempts to take advantage of disaster situations, it cannot 
entirely account for the success of “free market” ideology, 
particularly in cases in which the market’s powers of seduction 
play a larger role than the use of brute force. Moreover, we 
should remember that neoliberals are not the only ones 
who can capitalize on a crisis. Throughout the world, social 
movements are learning that political upheaval and economic 
downturn can create opportunities for popular movements 
to demand, and construct, a more just and equitable society. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The rise 
of disaster capitalism. Metropolitan, 2007. 

http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine 

Engler, Mark. “Capitalism as Catastrophe: 
A Review of Naomi Klein's The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." 
Dissent (Spring 2008], 

http://trb.la/zaqH MF 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Mass street action p. 68 

THEORIES 

Intellectuals and power p. 240 
The commons p. 220 
Capitalism p. 216 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Cycles of social movement s web 

CASE STUDIES 

Wisconsin Capitol Occupation p. 39 6 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: Chile under Pinochet (1973-1989); 
post-Soviet Russia; post-tsunami Sri Lanka; post-Katrina 
New Orleans. 


THEORY: The shock doctrine 


263 



THEORY: 

e social 


cure 


IN SUM 

People are more likely to 
be motivated to action by peer 
groups than by information 
or appeals to fear. The 
social cure is a method of 
harnessing this power of social 
groups for social change. 

ORIGINS 

Join the Club: How Peer Pressure 
Can Transform the World by Tina 
Rosenberg [Norton, 2011) 

PRACTITIONERS 

Otpor & CANVAS 
loveLife 

Students Working Against Tobacco 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Waging Nonviolence, “How Peer Pressure 
Creates Social Change" [interview 
with Tina Rosenberg) 

http://trb.la/wdxs10 

A Force More Powerful, “Review 
of Bringing Down a Dictator" 

http://trb.la/A45VtQ 

Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points 

http://trb.la/xnaBVh 

CANVAS Core Curriculum: A Guide 
to Effective Nonviolent Struggle 

http://trb.la/ysFOoX 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Bryan Farrell 


264 


People are rarely swayed by infor- 
mation alone. If they were, the to- 
bacco industry would have collapsed 
when the first Surgeon General’s 
report on smoking came out in 
1964, and fossil fuels would have 
been phased out in 1989, when the 
threat of global warming reached 
public consciousness. 

So what does move us? According to Tina Rosenberg, 
author of Join the Club, it’s peer pressure. You know, the 
same thing that compels teenagers to engage in all sorts of 
risky behavior that drives parents crazy. But there’s more to it 
than that. 

Peer pressure is also responsible for some astounding 
instances of positive social change, from lowering HIV rates 
among South African youths (loveLife) to reducing the num- 
ber of teen smokers in the United States (Students Working 
Against Tobacco). Both advances, Rosenberg explains, came 
about through targeted efforts by local NGOs to activate peer 
networks for positive social change. 

It’s a point that many are willing to accept in theory. Few, 
though, would believe that something so simple could topple 
a brutal dictator. But that’s precisely what the Serbian student 
movement Otpor was able to achieve when it transformed a 
previously passive and fatalistic citizenry into the nonviolent 
army that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic , the “Butcher of the 
Balkans,” in 2000. 

As Rosenberg explains in her book, “Traditional democ- 
racy activists create political parties. Otpor created a party. 
People joined the movement for the same reasons they go to 
the hot bar of the moment.” By branding itself with hip slo- 
gans, black t-shirts, absurd humor, rock music and an iconic 
clenched-hst graphic, the eleven founders of Otpor — all uni- 
versity students at the time — reinvented resistance in Serbia 
by making it a desirable club to join. 

They even managed to create a cult around getting 
arrested. For teenage boys, it was a way to be rebellious and 
win the respect of girls at the same time. Eventually, getting 


“Their language 
smelled like 
death. And we 
won because we 
loved life more." 


THEORY: The social cure 



arrested became a competition and kids would compete to 
rack up the most busts. As one Otpor member noted, 
“When someone asks me who took down Milosevic , I say, 
‘High school kids.’ ” 

By appealing to people’s need, not just for information but 
for identification, Otpor showed that the social cure can be 
used in even the most difficult and repressive of situations as a 
force for rallying citizen power. Put more simply, in the words 
of Otpor founder Srdja Popovic, “Their language smelled like 
death. And we won because we loved life more.” 



Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Mass street action p. 68 
Carnival-protest web 

PRINCIPLES 

Think narratively p. 186 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Create heroes, not victims web 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 

If protest is made illegal, make 

daily life a protest p. 138 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

THEORIES 

Political identity paradox p. 254 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Anti-oppression p. 212 


“The student movement Otpor was able to galvanize a movement against Serbian president Milosovic through hip 
slogans and a cult of cool around getting arrested." 


THEORY: The social cure 


265 




THEORY: 

ociety of the spectacle 


IN SUM 

Modern capitalism upholds 
social control through 
the spectacle, the use of 
mass communications to 
turn us into consumers and 
passive spectators of our own 
lives, history and power. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Politics is that dimension 
of social life in which things 
become true if enough people 
believe them.” 

-David G raeber 

ORIGINS 

French philosopher and 
activist Guy Debord 


PRACTITIONERS 

Adbusters 
Abbie Hoffman 
Situationist International 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Guy Debord, The Society of the 
Spectacle. Paris: Buchet-Castel, 1967. 

http://trb.la/yEMEpq 



Gil Scott Heron's famous words, embodied here at Occupy Los Angeles, October 2011, capture the disconnect between the 

CONTRIBUTED BY spectacle and the political reality. 

Dave Oswald Mitchell 

“In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, 
life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles,” 
Guy Debord ’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) begins. “Everything 
that was directly lived has receded into a representation.” The 
political consequence of this separation from felt experience 
is key to understanding both how we experience the world and 
how we can change it. 

For example, consider how people who witness a cata- 


266 


THEORY: Society of the spectacle 




strophic event often say the experience was “like a movie.” 
Similarly, as activists we are often more concerned with the 
media attention our actions generate than with their end 
result. What we feel, what we believe, how we express desire, 
what we believe is possible — all are filtered through, and 
constrained by, the media we consume and produce. This is 
the society of the spectacle that Debord, a leading figure in the 
French Situationist movement, Um ... . 
described and decried. 

Marx famously argued that 
under capitalism, the com- 
modity becomes “fetishized” 
and reduced to its exchange 
value. Debord applied Marx’s 
ideas to mass communica- 
tion, showing how capitalism 
has penetrated not just what 
we produce and consume, but 
how we communicate. The 
spectacle — as manifested in mass entertainment, news, 
and advertising — alienates us from ourselves and our 
desires in order to facilitate the accumulation of capital. 

Increasingly, the spectacle serves as capitalism’s primary 
mechanism of social control. This is control by seduction and 
distraction, not force — but no less powerful and insidious for 
that fact. Debord argued that our lives have been degraded, 
first from being into having, then from having into merely 
appearing. (Think how much of our day-to-day “activist” 
behavior is concerned simply with maintaining our self-image 
as activists: too often, we don’t strike, we strike poses.) 

Seeking to free us from the power of the spectacle in order 
to mount a credible challenge to capitalism, the Situationists 
introduced the tactic of detournement: an attempt to turn the 
powers of the spectacle against itself see TACTIC: Detournement/ 
Culture jamming. 


as activists we 
are often more 
concerned with the 
media attention 
our actions 
generate than with 
their end result ” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 32 
Identity Correction p. 14 

PRINCIPLES 

Brand of be branded p. 174 
Know your cultural terrain web 
Do the media's work for them p. 18 6 
No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p. 152 
Make your actions both 
concrete and communicative p. 154 

THEORIES 

Commodity fetishism p. 236 
Marxism p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 244 
The propaganda model p. 244 


THEORY: Society of the spectacle 


267 



THEORY: 

e tactics of everyday life 


IN SUM 

Tactics are not 
a subset of strategy, 
but a democratic 
response to it. 

ORIGINS 

Michel de Certeau, The Practice 
of Everyday Life [1984], 

PRACTITIONERS 
FURTHER INSIGHT 

Stan Goff, “Strategy and tactics," Feral 
Scholar, September 29, 2010, Fantasy. 

http://trb.la/zXPvRC 

Michel de Certeau, The Practice 
of Everyday Life. [University 
of California Press, 2002). 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Stan Goff 


268 


Strategy and tactics, as the concepts are commonly understood, 
have their roots in military theory. The French Jesuit scholar 
Michel de Certeau, however, drew a distinction between the 
two terms that leaps over some of the martial history of 
these ideas. 

In military parlance, strategy is the identification of key 
campaigns that are necessary to accomplish the main objective 
— in most cases, winning the war. Operations are the level of 
planning that determines key battles necessary to win cam- 
paigns. Tactics are those techniques that are required to win 
battles. So the tactic is subordinate to the campaign, which is 
subordinate to the strategy. Those who adapt the model inherit 
the hierarchy in which it is based. 

De Certeau took a different approach, positing tactics 
not as subordinate to strategy but as opposed to it. He wrote 
about people in their everyday lives, not in conditions 
of extremity and conflict, in a book fittingly entitled The 
Practice of Everyday Life (1984). 

The setting of strategy, notes 
de Certeau, is always the purview 
of power. Strategy presumes 
control. Strategy is self-segre- 
gating, in the same way admin- 
istration and management are 
self-segregating, setting itself 
up as a barricaded insider. The 
strategic leaders become the 
Subject; the led and the enemy 
become the Objects. Strategy 
presumes an in-group that car- 
ries out campaigns. 

In contrast to strategy, de 
Certeau characterizes tactics as the purview of the non- 
powerful. He understands tactics not as a subset of strategy, 
but as an adaptation to the environment, which has been 
created by the strategies of the powerful. The city planning 
commission may determine what streets there will be, but the 
local cabbie will figure out how best to navigate the lived reality 
of those streets. This art of making-do is what de Certeau calls 



The tactics in this football play are analogous to a tacti- 
cal plan for a political action or campaign. When grass- 
roots “players" can adapt and adjust in line with a shared 
general goal, the resulting tactical agility gives us a 
one-up on the less responsive strategies of institutions. 


THEORY: The tactics of everyday life 




bricolage, a process that often implies cooperation as much as 
competition. 

Strategy, de Certeau recognizes, makes two presumptions: 
control and an in-group. The inherent contradiction of strat- 
egy is that the control is never perfect and the situation upon 
which the strategy was constructed is always changing, which 
constantly makes aspects of the strategy obsolescent. The self- 
segregation of in-groups magnifies these myopic aspects of 
strategy, because the walls that keep others out also obscure 
their vision. Strategy becomes dangerously self-referential. 

Tactics, on the other hand, 

’ fiT ±1 I ;|; x . . 

are action in a constant state of 
reassessment and correction, 
based directly on observations 
of the actual environment. Tac- 
tical theorist John Boyd rather 
schematically diagrammed this 
process as an “OODA-loop,” 
in which people observe their 
surroundings (O), orient on the 
most important developments 
in the environment (O), decide 
on an immediate course of 
action (D), take that action (A), 
then revert immediately to observation of the environment 
to see how their last action might have changed it (orienting 
again, deciding again, acting again, in a perpetual adaptive 
loop) . There is no presumption of how things will turn out, 
as there is in strategy. Instead, there is readiness to take 
advantage of unpredictable changes; this is called tactical 
agility, and it is often what sets popular uprisings apart from 
the institutions they seek to overthrow: they have strategy, 
we have tactics. 

Strategies are undermined by unpredictability. Tactics 
make an ally of unpredictability. 


lacucai agility 
is often what sets 
popular uprisings 
apart from the 
institutions they 
seek to overthrow: 
they have strategy ; 
we have tactics.” 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Flash mob p. 46 
Infiltration p. 64 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Distributed action p. 36 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Eviction blockade p. 44 

PRINCIPLES 

Put your target in a decision 

dilemma p. 166 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative insurgency web 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 

CASE STUDIES 

Bidder 70 p. 290 
Teddy-bear catapult p. 380 
The Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Occupy Wall Street web 
Taco Bell boycott p. 372 


THEORY: The tactics of everyday life 


269 


THEORY: 


©Temporary autonomous zone 


IN SUM 

An alternative to traditional 
models of revolution, the T.A.Z 
is an uprising that creates 
free, ephemeral enclaves of 
autonomy in the here-and-now. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Are we who live in the 
present doomed never to 
experience autonomy, never 
to stand for one moment 
on a bit of land ruled 
only by freedom?” 

-Hakim Bey 

ORIGINS 

Hakim Bey [aka Peter Lamborn Wilson) 


PRACTITIONERS 

The Diggers [1960s] 
Improv Everywhere 
The [new] Diggers 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. : The Temporary 
Autonomous Zone, Ontological 
Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism [New 
York, NY: Autonomedia, 1991) 
Full text of book available 
for download here: 
http://hermetic.com/bey/taz_cont.html 

Video: “Improv Everywhere: 
Say Something Nice" 

http://youtu.be/RwEYYTAGWs 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Jordan 


270 


Coined in 1990 by poet, anarcho-immediatist and Sufi scholar 
Hakim Bey, the term temporary autonomous zone (T.A.Z.) seeks to 
preserve the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of autonomous 
uprisings without replicating the inevitable betrayal and 
violence that has been the reaction to most revolutions 
throughout history. The answer, according to Bey, lies in 
refusing to wait for a revolutionary moment, and instead 
create spaces of freedom in the immediate present whilst 
avoiding direct confrontation with the state. 

A T.A.Z. is a liberated area “of land, time or imagination” 
where one can be for something, not just against, and where 
new ways of being human together can be explored and 
experimented with. Locating itself in the cracks and fault lines 
in the global grid of control and alienation, a T.A.Z. is an erup- 
tion of free culture where life 
is experienced at maximum 
intensity. It should feel like 
an exceptional party where 
for a brief moment our desires 
are made manifest and we all 
become the creators of the 
art of everyday life. 

The key, suggests Bey, is to remain mobile, relying on stealth 
and the ability to melt into the darkness at a moment’s notice. 
Before the T.A.Z is spotted and recognized by the state, which 
will inevitably seek to crush it, it dissolves and moves on, reappear- 
ing in unexpected places to celebrate once again the wonders of 
conviviality and life outside the law. It might last hours, days, years 
even, depending on how quickly it is noticed by authorities. 

Bey claims that T.A.Z.s have always existed. He sees their 
ancestry in the numerous liberated zones that pepper history: 
from the secret “state” of the medieval Persian Assassins to the 
eighteenth century pirate utopias — islands where buccaneers, 
escaped slaves and convicts lived outside the law, sharing goods 
and property. From the radical communes of Paris and Munich 
to the dissatisfied colonizers of North America who deserted 
their enclave to join Native American communities, leaving the 
infamous sign behind them, “Gone to Croatan .” 

Bey maintains, however, that the T.A.Z. cannot be defined; 


“...an eruption of 
free culture where 
life is experienced 
at maximum 
intensity.” 


THEORY: Temporary autonomous zone 



Related: 





-ndfl 




WS1 


Burning Man - the quintessential Temporary Autonomous Zone. Photo by Dave Oswald Mitchell. 

it is simply a “suggestion ... a poetic fancy,” not “political dogma,” 
and that “if the phrase became current it would be under- 
stood without difficulty. . . understood in action.” Twenty years 
on, the notion of T.A.Z has inspired movements and actions 
across the world, from the creative play of Reclaim the Streets 
parties see CASE to the autonomy of protest encampments, the 
Anonymous hacker movement to the Burning Man festival and 
secret rainbow gatherings. 

When Bey first came up with the concept, the web was in 
its infancy, yet he already imagined a future world where a 
multitude of autonomous zones could be linked by dispersed 
networks of communication freed from political control. The 
web would not bean end in itself, he wrote, but a weapon without 
which autonomous zones would perish. At the time, he 
dismissed his own theory as pure speculative science fiction, 
but the future always arrives faster than one can imagine. 


TACTICS 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Occupation p. 78 
Encampment web 
Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLES 

If protest is made illegal, make 
daily life a protest p. 138 
Balance art and message p. 100 
We are all leaders p. 202 

THEORIES 

The tactics of everyday life p. 2 68 
Political identity paradox p. 254 
The commons p. 220 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Ontological Anarchy web 

CASE STUDIES 

Occupy Wall Street web 
Reclaim the Streets p. 350 
Burning Man web 
Small gifts p. 360 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: If we wrote it down here the 
authorities would soon learn about it and it would have to 
dissolve. Keep your senses open; the nearest T.A.Z. is nearer 
than you think. 

IMPORTANT BUT LITTLE-KNOWN APPLICATION: The 1920-24 free 
state of Fiume (now the city of Rijeka, Croatia), whose consti- 
tution was written by poets and anarchists. 


THEORY: Temporary autonomous zone 



eater of the Oppressed 


IN SUM 

Theater of the Oppressed 
provides tools for people 
to explore collective 
struggles, analyze their 
history and present 
circumstances, and then 
experiment with inventing 
a new future together 
through theater. 

EPIGRAPH 

“The theater itself is not 
revolutionary: it is a 
rehearsal for the revolution.” 



Augusto Boat, 1975. (Cedoc/Funarte) 


-Augusto Boat 

ORIGINS 

Drawing inspiration from Freire, Brecht, 
and Stanislavski, Augusto Boal devel- 
oped the Theater of the Oppressed in 
practice throughout his career, starting 
in the '50s in Brazil and later in Argen- 
tina, Peru, Ecuador and France while in 
exile from the military dictatorship. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Julian Boal 
Brent Blair 
Cheryl Harrison 
Mark Weinburg 
Mark Weinblatt 
Rosa Gonzales 
Melina Bobadilla 
Jiwon Chung 
Practicing Freedom 
Los Angeles Poverty Department 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Levana Saxon 


Theater of the Oppressed is an arsenal of theater techniques 
and games that seeks to motivate people, restore true dialogue, 
and create space for participants to rehearse taking action. It 
begins with the idea that everyone has the capacity to act in the 
“theater” of their own lives; everybody is at once an actor and a 
spectator. We are “spect-actors!” — a term which Boal coined. 

Boal points out that when we are simply passive audience 
members, we transfer our desire to take action onto the char- 
acters we identify with, and then find that desire satiated as 
the conflict resolves itself on stage, in films or in the news. 
Catharsis substitutes for action. 

Boal, following Brecht, calls this bourgeois theater, which 
functions to reproduce elite visions of the world and pacify 
spectators. He says bourgeois theater is “finished” theater; the 
bourgeoisie already know what the world is like and so simply 
present it onstage. 

In contrast to bourgeois theater, “the people” do not yet 
know what their world will be like Their “authentic” theater 
is therefore unfinished, and can provide space to rehearse 
different possible outcomes. As Boal says: “One knows how 
these experiments will begin but not how they will end, be- 
cause the spectator is freed from his chains, finally acts, and 
becomes a protagonist.” 1 


THEORY: Theater of the Oppressed 




Theater of the Oppressed encompasses many forms, 
including the following: 

Image theater see TACTIC invites spect-actors to form a tab- 
leau of frozen poses to capture a moment in time drama- 
tizing an oppressive situation. The image then becomes 
a source of critical reflection, facilitated by various kinds 
of interventions: spect-actors may be asked to depict an 
ideal image of liberation from that oppression, and then 
a sequence of transition images required to reach it, or to 
reshape an image to show different perspectives. 

Forum theater see TACTIC is a short play or scene that dra- 
matizes a situation, with a terribly oppressive ending that 
spect-actors cannot be satisfied with. After an initial per- 
formance, it is shown again, however this time the specta- 
tors become spect-actors and can at any point yell “freeze” 
and step on stage to replace the protagonist (s) and take 
the situation in different directions. Theater thus becomes 
rehearsal for real-world action. 

Legislative theater takes forum theater to the government 
and asks spect-actors to not only attempt interventions on 
stage, but to write down the successful interventions into 
suggestions for legislation and hand them in to the elected 
officials in the room. 

Invisible theater see TACTIC is a play that masquerades as 
reality, performed in a public space. The objective is to unsetde 
passive social relations and spark critical dialogue among 
the spect-actors, who never learn that they are part of a play. 
Augusto Boal said of one invisible theater intervention, “The 
actor became the spectator of the spectator who had become 
an actor, so the fiction and reality were overlapping.” 1 2 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

International theater of the 
Oppressed Organization 

www.theateroftheoppressed.org 

Pedagogy and theater of the Oppressed 

www.ptoweb.org 

Boal, Augusto. Garries for Actors and 
Non-Actors [London: Routledge, 1992). 

Boal, Augusto. Theater of the 
Oppressed [New York: Theater 
Communications Group, 1993). 

Friedlandm, Ellie, and Toby Emert, eds. 
Come Closer: Critical Perspectives 
on Theater of the Oppressed [ New 
York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2011). 

Related: 

TACTICS 

Forum theater p. 48 
Image theater p. 62 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Guerrilla theater web 
Street theater web 

PRINCIPLES 

Anyone can act p. 98 
Praxis makes perfect p. 162 
No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p. 156 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Balance art and message p. 100 
We are all leaders p. 202 

THEORIES 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 
Alienation effect p. 210 
Anti-oppression p. 212 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 


A final point that perhaps can’t be stated enough: our move- 
ments need to be more strategic and community-led ! Theater of 
the Oppressed offers arts-based strategy-developing exercises 
that foster collaboration and community-led engagement. 
What could be more awesome? 


1 Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed. London: Pluto Press, 2000. 

2 Interview, Democracy Now! June 3, 2005. 


CASE STUDIES 

Battle in Seattle p. 286 
Tar Sands Action p. 376 
Daycare center sit-in p. 31 6 
Camp Casey web 
Teddy bear catapult p. 380 
Whose Tea Party? p. 392 
The salt march p. 354 
The Trail of Dreams p. 384 


THEORY: Theater of the Oppressed 


273 



THEORY: 

rite your own THEORY 


IN SUM What’s the big idea ? 


EPIGRAPH 


ORIGINS 


PRACTITIONERS 


FURTHER INSIGHT 


CONTRIBUTED BY 


274 


THEORY: Write your own THEORY 



Related: 


TACTICS 


MOST FAMOUS APPLICATION: 


PRINCIPLES 


MOST INFAMOUS APPLICATION: 


CASES 


The modular format of Beautiful Trouble allows the collection 
to expand endlessly to reflect new tactical breakthroughs, 
underrepresented areas of struggle and overlooked pearls 
of wisdom. 

Become part of Beautiful Trouble. Use this template to 
write up your own creative-activism insights. Submit your own 
module for publication on the Beautiful Trouble website here: 
http://beautifultrouble.org. 


THEORY: Write your own THEORY 


275 



CASE STUDIES 

WHERE THE RUBBER 

MEETSJHEROAD 

Capsule stories of successful creative actions, 
useful for illustrating how tactics, principles 
and theories can be successfully applied. 


“ Success means going from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.” 

— Winston Churchill 


Revolutionaries practice without safety nets. Our 
laboratory is the world around us - the streets, the 
Internet, the airwaves, our own hearts, as well as the 
hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. We experiment, 
we fail, we change things up, we try again, maybe this 
time a little less disastrously, a little more beautifully - 
until we win. Always we learn. Case studies are where 
we learn what we’ve learned. 




WHEN 

November 17, 2011 


WHERE 

New York City 

EPIGRAPH 

“99% /MIC CHECK! /LOOK 
AROUND /YOU ARE A PART/ 
OF A GLOBAL UPRISING /WE 
ARE A CRY/ FROM THE HEART 
/OF THE WORLD/WEARE 
UNSTOPPABLE/ ANOTHER 
WORLD IS POSSIBLE/ HAPPY 
BIRTHDAY/ #OCCUPY 
MOVEMENT/ OCCUPY WALL 
STREET / list of cities, states 
and countries / OCCUPY EARTH 
/WEARE WINNING/IT IS THE 
BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING 
/DO NOT BE AFRAID /LOVE.” 

-Projection Text, Mark Read 


PRACTITIONERS 

Occupy Wall Street 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mark Read 


278 


A coalition of labor unions had called for a national day of 
action on November 17 to push back against austerity and 
demand infrastructure improvements and jobs. Actions were 
planned for seventeen bridges in seventeen cities. In New York 
City, a permit was obtained for a large rally in the Wall Street 
area, with a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to follow. No- 
vember 17 also happened to be the two-month birthday cel- 
ebration for #Occupy Wall Street. People wanted something 
spectacular to happen, something beautiful. 

The November 17 action coordination working group 
planned to purchase ten thousand small LED lights to hand 
out to the crowd as they encircled City Hall and streamed over 
the pedestrian walkway of the bridge, creating a river of light. 
The metaphor of light was important, as we were celebrating 
Occupy Wall Street’s commitment to shining a light on a cor- 
rupt and broken political and economic system. But we need- 
ed something bigger. We started talking about projections, 
and Hero (yes, his name is Hero) suggested a “bat signal.” A 
big circle with “99 %” in the middle. It seemed too perfect, so 
we got to work making that a reality. 

Within spitting distance of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestri- 
an walkway stands a thirty-two-story gray concrete slab of a 
building commonly known as “the Verizon building.” A flat 
windowless expanse approximately seventy-five feet in width 
extends up the face, with low ambient light. Cityhousingprojects 
fifteen stories tall sit in its shadow. We had our projection 
screen. We had secured the loan of a powerful projector. We 
had ideas for content. 

What we needed was a projection room. 

We needed to project from an apartment in one of those 
buildings. I put up signs offering $250 for the use of an apart- 
ment for an art and him project. There were few calls at first, 
but eventually a call came in from one Denise Vega — a sin- 
gle mother of two, born and raised in those housing projects 
and working to keep her family fed. She had the window we 
needed, and more importantly a supportive and enthusiastic 
attitude. In the end she refused to take any money for the use 
of her home, declaring, “I can’t charge you money, this is for 
the people.” 


CASE: 99% bat signal 


“It seemed too 
perfect , so we got 
to work making 
that a reality” 


In the days before the action 
we began to realize that we 
would be able to project not 
just the 99% symbol, but also 
words large enough and bright 
enough for people to read from 
the bridge. This opened up 
many possibilities. What if we could get the crowd to interact 
with the projections? We would need to project chants in the 
proper cadence, to get people started. After that, we imagined 
that we might be able to get people to use the “human micro- 
phone” to “mic check” a brief statement. 

Amazingly, all went as planned, and the action was 
even more successful that we could have hoped for. The 
20,000-strong crowd on the bridge went crazy. We could hear 
them shouting, cheering, and, yes, “mic-checking” from the 
window of Denise’s bedroom. We were interacting with the 
crowd, mixing the projections on the fly in response to the 
crowd’s reactions. It was the galvanizing, unifying moment of 
joy and celebration that we’d hoped to provide this burgeoning 
global movement for a more just and democratic world. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “#Occu py Bat Signal for the 99%" 

http://trb.la/A3cFFM 

Xeni Jardin, “Interview with creator 
of Occupy Wall Street ‘bat-signal' 
projections during Brooklyn 
Bridge #N17 march," Boing Boing, 

Nov. 17, http://trb.la/A1AydA 

InterOccupy, “Occupy ‘Bat 
Signal' Source Files" 

http://interoccupy.org/occupy-bat-signal/ 

Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Expressive and instrumental 
actions p. 232 


The action worked because all the elements fell into place: WHY IT WORKED 

the technology was powerful, the weather cooperated and the 
scale suited the occasion. Most vitally, though, the action was 
embedded within a movement and played on elements from 
movement culture — both in style and in substance. The “hu- 
man mic” and “mic check” were tropes that were immediately 
grasped and appreciated. Most of the language came from 
chants or well known slogans. The “bat signal” itself required 
no translation. It’s a part of our cultural commons, part of the 
“spectacular vernacular” of global pop culture, a symbol we all 
understand to be a call for aid and an outlaw call to arms — 
after all, isn’t that precisely what the Occupy movement is? 

Of course Batman is actually a quasi-sociopathic million- 
aire vigilante. A one-percenter, you might say. But by Riling 
that symbol — by occupying it — with our own content — 

“99 %” — we appropriated it for the rest of us. And in this re- 
configuration, we were no longer waiting for some superhero, 
be it a masked vigilante or the first black president, to swoop 
in and save the day. Rather, we were the response to our own 
call for aid. 


CASE: 99% bat signal 


279 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Mass street action p. 68 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Direct action p. 32 


GUERRILLA PROJECTION: Guerrilla projection is a visually power- 
ful and often very beautiful method for delivering a political 
message. It can be used as an action in and of itself, or to en- 
hance existing actions; to rebrand an existing structure, or to 
frame an action. It’s versatile, carries little risk, can be done in- 
expensively, and only requires surprisingly less technical savvy 
than you might think. The success or failure of the tactic will 
always depend on the quality of the content: make sure that 
you balance the desire to do something artful with the need 
for clarity. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Balance art and message p. 100 
No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p. 1 56 
Stay on message p. 178 
Brand or be branded p. 104 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Do the media’s work for them p. 124 
Be both expressive and 
instrumental web 
Find common ground p. 170 


KNOW THE CULTURAL TERRAIN: Superhero mythology is argu- 
ably one of the most prefigurative aspects of spectacular cul- 
ture, and quite ripe for re-appropriation. The heroes in masks 
and on the screen are not just corporate cash cows; they also 
frequently represent values subversive to the very corporations 
that profit from them. Exploit these contradictions. 

HOPE IS A MUSCLE: The messaging that we projected was unflag- 
gingly inspirational and positive (“we are unstoppable,” etc.). 
We actually had some text in the can (“Banks got bailed out, 
we got sold out”) that we didn’t end up using because it had 
the wrong tone. As the evening played out, it was evident that 
we were creating a moment of pure, celebratory optimism. It 
was heady and powerful. 

USE THE POWER OF RITUAI The human microphone had be- 
come the central ritual of the Occupy movement. It is itself 
a repeatedly performed act of solidarity and unity. With the 
right message and setting, it can have a powerful emotional 
effect on crowds. By working it into our light projection, we hit 
on a new incarnation of this powerful ritual. 


280 


CASE: 99% bat signal 



On November 17, 2011, the 99% briefly left their imprint on the New York skyline and the world's political imagination. 
Photo by Brandon Neubauer. 


CASE: 99% bat signal 


281 



CASE STUDY: 

wThe Barbie Liberation Organization 


WHEN 

December 25, 1993 

WHERE 

U.S.A. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Barbie Liberation Organization 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

YouTube clip of the BLO action 

http://trb.la/xaKnQw 

Video Data Bank clip of the BLO action 

http://trb.la/zztsYp 

David Firestone, “While Barbie Talks 
Tough, G.I.Joe Goes Shopping," 
NY Times, Dec. 31, 1993. 

http://trb. Ia/Aydu02 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mike Bonanno 


282 


“The surreptitious 
introduction of 
poetically enhanced 
products to store 
shelves is a sure-fire 
way of delivering 
subversive content 
to even the peskiest 
demographic.” 


On Christmas day in 1993, kids were finding more than they 
bargained for under their trees: Mattel’s new talking Barbie 
dolls growled “Dead men tell no lies,” while Hasbro ’s macho 
GI Joe’s chirped “I love to shop with you.” 

Enter the Barbie Liberation 
Organization, a self-described 
group of “veterans against war 
toys” and “concerned parents” 
who claimed responsibility for 
switching the voice boxes on 
hundreds of the toys nation- 
wide. A full week of news and 
talk radio ensued, sparking 
widespread discussion about 
gender stereotypes. 

The action was a response 
to a very dumb PR move Mat- 
tel had made nearly a year 
earlier, when it released a new 
talking Barbie that said “Math is hard.” Outraged feminists 
thrashed them in the press, and behind closed doors a small 
group of folks began plotting revenge. What else could Barbie 
say? One participant in the informal brainstorm sessions — an 
octogenarian Hungarian holocaust survivor who went by the 
nickname “Gyongi” — didn’t care about Barbie: the problem 
for her was Gljoe. A quick trip to the toy store confirmed that GI 
Joe talked too, and a plot was hatched: all that was required to 
make these toys into gender-bending Trojan horses was a voice- 
box switcheroo. Armed with soldering irons, screwdrivers, epoxy 
and sweat, the Barbie Liberation Organization went to work. 

The next step was to recruit other BLO members, who pur- 
chased the toys in different cities, and sent them in for surgery. 
Each toy was carefully removed from its packaging, “fixed,” 
and returned. “Shop droppers” then put them right back on 
the store shelves they came from (without getting a refund, so 
nobody could call it stealing) . 

But this wasn’t to be a simple spectacle, it was to be a media 
spectacle, so an elaborate press plan was hatched. Along with 
each repackaged toy they included a doctored instruction 


CASE: The Barbie Liberation Organization 


Related: 



Challenging the gender norms that they were designed to uphold. 


sheet, complete with the numbers of local and national press, 
and a voicemail number for the BLO. The idea was that kids 
would open their toys, parents would call the numbers, and 
the media would cover it. 

The day before Christmas, the BLO sent out a press re- 
lease claiming responsibility for the action. The hope was that 
on Christmas day, when the media started getting phone calls 
from real people who’d gotten the toys, they’d put two and 
two together. 

In case even that didn’t do the trick, the BLO built ad- 
ditional layers of redundancy into the media plan. They re- 
cruited two kids — one in San Diego, California, and one in 
Albany, New York — who were willing to put on a little show 
for the news cameras, thereby “proving” that the action was re- 
ally happening. Lastly, they kept a stash of extra dolls on hand 
and stood ready to scramble to the toy stores nearest to any 
media who called their voicemail. When the media called, the 
BLO located the nearest store to the caller, got there as fast 
as they could, and put an altered toy on the shelf. On at least 
one occasion, BLO members were still in the store when the 
journalist arrived. They watched him find the toy, test it, and 
triumphantly purchase it — proof-positive of the power and 
reach of the Barbie Liberation Organization. 


The stunt worked because the altered toys were funny, surpris- 
ing and revealing. There were cute kids involved, which helped 
make it more media-genic, as did the name recognition of two 
American icons: Barbie and GI Joe. The event made a huge 
media splash and had everyone talking about what was wrong 
with teaching these stereotypes to our kids. 


THEORIES 

Commodity Fetishism p. 218 
Society of the Spectacle p. 266 


WHY IT WORKED 


CASE: The Barbie Liberation Organization 


283 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK The BLO didn’t directly translate attention into action: it was 

an isolated prank without direct links to an ongoing cam- 
paign. This kind of hit-and-run tactic has an impact, but it 
arguably could have been more effective with the right cam- 
paign tie-ins. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Identity correction p. 60 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Distributed action p. 32 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Reframe p. 168 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Use the materials at hand web 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
Seek common ground p. 120 


SHOP-DROPPING: The surreptitious introduction of poetically 
enhanced products to store shelves is a sure-fire way of deliver- 
ing subversive content to even the peskiest demographic. In 
the BLO’s case, the shop-dropping is just the foundation upon 
which a major media spectacle was built. 


DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR THEM: Do the media’s work for them. 
The BLO’s success relied not just on a “sticky” prank, but on 
thoughtfully crafted press releases, video news releases, and 
having people ready to be interviewed. It was an artful mar- 
riage of creative storytelling and do-it-yourself publicity. 

MAKE YOUR OWN MYTHS: Make your own myths: Exaggerate. 
Don’t be afraid to make it sound bigger than it is. There were 
only about fifty dolls that made it to store shelves in three 
states: but the BLO said 300 in fifty states. No problem. The 
next Christmas, when the media came knocking, the BLO had 
done “thousands more” with no effort whatsoever. 

MAKE IT FUNNY: A video news release showing Barbie dolls with 
soldering irons operating on GI Joes had TV anchors giggling 
like kids in between segments. With smiles like that, even con- 
servative commentators were embracing the content. 


284 


CASE: The Barbie Liberation Organization 


IF 


YOU 

WANT 

TO 

TELL 

PEOPLE 

THE 

TRUTH, 

MAKE 

THEM 

LAUGH, 

OTHERWISE 

THEY'LL 

KILL 

YOU 

:) 


— Oscar Wilde 




in Seattle 


WHEN 

November 30, 1999 

WHERE 

Seattle 

PRACTITIONERS 

Ruckus Society 
Direct Action Network 
Art & Revolution 
Rainforest Action Network 
AFL-CIO 

Alliance of Community Trainers 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

This is What Democracy Looks Like 
[ documentary film). Big Noise Films, 2000. 

http://trb.la/Asw04E 

Elizabeth Martinez, “Where was the 
color in Seattle? Looking for reasons 
why the Great Battle was so white." 
Colorlines Magazine. March 20, 2000. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Sellers 


4 



Hundreds of feet in the air, four climbers from Rainforest Action Network and the Ruckus Society hang a giant banner 
off of a construction crane on the eve of the mass street protests against the WTO, Seattle, 1999. 

In 1999, the World Trade Organization decided to hold global 
capitalism’s board meeting in Seattle, WA. Most Americans 
had never heard of the WTO before, but savvy organizers 
across a spectrum of single-issue silos, including labor, envi- 
ronmental, human rights and others, decided that they would 
team up and act like a movement for a change. Our critiques 
of neoliberalism varied widely and there were both reformers 
and abolitionists in our ranks, but we were united in the recog- 
nition that the meeting represented a potent symbolic target 
for anyone challenging the juggernaut of undemocratic global 
corporate power. 

Radicals and liberals agreed early on that a healthy inside/ 
outside strategy was called for. A critical mass of activists be- 
gan organizing, recruiting and training together to attempt a 
many-thousands-strong blockade of the WTO ministerial. We 
believed that if we could achieve the tactical victory of a mass 
shutdown of the WTO’s coming-out party, it would strengthen 
the hands of everyone working against corporate globalization. 

Scores of affinity groups organized themselves into thirteen 
“clusters” and through a highly functional (and democratic) 


286 


CASE: Battle in Seattle 


“On the day of the 
event , we surprised 
everyone, even 
ourselves " 


spokescouncil, hammered out a plan to capture the key 
intersections around the Seattle Convention Center in a 
massive nonviolent blockade. And so, in the predawn darkness 
of November 30, 5,000 direct actionistas marched through 
the streets of Seattle toward their targets. Each individual 
action had its own logic and narrative. Each would have stood 
on its own as extraordinary. When connected together, they 
became unstoppable. 

The action frame we chose was carnival-protest, equal parts 
communicative and concrete see PRINCIPLE: Make your actions 
both concrete and communicative. Outside the stodgy corporate 
meeting, a giant dance party broke out, complete with marching 
bands, dancers, theater troupes, giant puppets, radical cheer- 
leaders, a phalanx of 300 turtles and even Christmas carolers. 
Thousands of folks joined 
together (with hands and 
chains) around key entrances 
and intersections, preventing 
delegates from entering (that 
was the instrumental part). It 
could have looked threatening, 
but with all the celebratory art and solidarity, we looked beau- 
tiful and human doing it. Our theme was “Another World Is 
Possible” and we were living it out. 

By morning, 5,000 more folks, inspired by the audacity 
and courage of these artful actions, had spontaneously joined 
the human wall around the WTO. Teamsters and turtles were 
literally dancing together in the streets. A few hours later, as 
the Seattle police unleashed a torrent of tear gas and pepper 
spray to crack the blockade, 50,000 labor marchers defied 
their own marshals and reinforced us with a sea of humanity. 
The biggest business meeting on Earth had been shut down, a 
tactical victory most thought impossible. And the rest, as they 
say, is history. 

The impact of Seattle was enormous. It launched the 
global justice movement in the Global North. It showed that a 
people’s victory against global capital was possible. It created a 
teachable moment — for the public, on the WTO and the dark 
side of corporate globalization, and also for the movement, 
showcasing direct and mass action tactics and a carnivalesque 
sensibility that are still influential today, as well as training a 
new wave of actionistas who have gone on to play critical roles 
across the next decade of progressive movements. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Homo q & hamas p. 236 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Action logic p. 208 
Cycles of social movements web 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 


CASE: Battle in Seattle 


287 


WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Mass street action p. 68 
Direct action p. 32 
Banner hang p. 12 
Street theater web 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 


We had a great democratic process that let us hammer out 
agreements on both actions and messaging frameworks that 
thousands of people signed onto. We picked the fight early 
and framed it well. We planned for nine months. We started 
the media story months in advance. On the day of the event, 
we surprised everyone, even ourselves. 

Where was the color in Seattle? When your two most popular 
battle cries are “This is what democracy looks like ! ” and “An- 
other world is possible,” and most of the people chanting them 
are white, then you have a serious problem. There were some 
amazing young organizers of color with us in the streets of 
Seattle, but a “global justice movement” must be inclusive and 
share leadership with those folks on the front lines of injustice. 
In Seattle we came up short. 

Victim of our own tactical success. The global justice movement 
spent the next couple of years trying to repeat Seattle’s 
tactical magic, trying to shut down every major summit we 
could reach, from Quebec to Qatar. But you can’t exploit the 
element of surprise twice. 

Inability to maintain nonviolent discipline. Small groups of pro- 
testers engaging in black bloc tactics smashed the windows 
of banks and Starbucks and thereby gave the cops the moral 
authority to use violence against all of us, and the corporate 
media all the ammunition they needed to tell the story they 
wanted to tell. 


BLOCKADE: The shut-down of the WTO blended both soft and 
hard blockade technologies. Of the thousands who partici- 
pated, all but a few hundred simply joined hands and stood 
shoulder to shoulder with their comrades to prevent delegates 
from getting through. However, several hundred people used 
lock-boxes, chains, barrels, and other hard blockade technol- 
ogy to hold key intersections where we knew our people power 
would be lightest. With art and costumes and good cheer, we 
made these gear-intensive technical “lockdowns” look beauti- 
ful, not scary. 


288 


CASE: Battle in Seattle 


THINK NARATIVELY When 50,000 lefties take the streets to con- 
front corporate power, you’re going to get 50,000 different cri- 
tiques. To try to unify all that message diversity, we designed a 
“framing action.” The day before the big protest, four climb- 
ers dropped a massive banner 300 feet above Seattle’s main 
commuter highway that framed the action as a choice between 
democracy and the WTO. The photo of the banner went glob- 
al on the day of the mass action, summing up in stark and 
simplest terms what Battle in Seattle was all about. 

ONE NO, MANY YESSES Whether your YES! was the freedom to 
keep making the Roquefort cheese that your great grandfa- 
ther made or to continue living in an ancient rainforest unpoi- 
soned by Big Oil or to keep your good union job and not have 
it outsourced to a sweatshop, you shared a NO ! with billions of 
others. This “unity in diversity” was present on the streets with 
Teamsters and Turtles linking arms, and in the “movement of 
movements” that organized the protest. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 48 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Be both concrete and 
communicative p. 154 
Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
If you're not uncomfortable, your 
coalition is too small web 


USE YOUR RADICAL FRINGE TO SLIDE THE OVERTON WINDOW: 

Before the WTO uprising in Seattle, relatively few people in 
the Global North questioned the process of corporate glo- 
balization and so-called “free” trade. Seattle jolted the entire 
Overton window sharply to the left. Fair trade and other alter- 
natives moved out of the fringe. The idea that militant mass 
action could stop corporate globalization in its tracks became 
not only thinkable, but popular. Every major summit between 
Seattle and 9/11 was met with mass protest. 


CASE: Battle in Seattle 


289 


CASE STUDY: 

W Bidder 70 

(Tim DeChristopher) 



WHEN 

December 2008 

WHERE 

Salt Lake City, Utah 

PRACTITIONERS 

Tim deChristopher 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Tim DeChristopher, “I do not want 
mercy, I want you to join me," 
Common Dreams July 27, 2011 

http://trb.la/wAqNPf 

Video: “Posing as a bidder, Utah student 
disrupts government auction" 

http://trb.la/xx1MbW 

Peaceful Uprising, “Frequently Asked 
Questions about Tim DeChristopher" 

http://trb.la/xOIKVY 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andy Bichlbaum 
Duncan Meisel 


290 


In December 2008, word got out about an illegal Bureau of Land 
Management auction of oil and gas leases for drilling near 
beautiful Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. The 
auction was Bush’s parting gift to his good friends in industry. 
Student Tim DeChristopher set out with the intention of 
physically disrupting the event, but as he walked through the 
door, he was taken by surprise when an attendant asked him if 
he was there to bid. “Why, yes, yes I am,” he answered, and the 
attendant gave Tim a paddle. In Tim’s words: 

Once I was in there, I realized that any kind of speech 
or disruption wasn’t going to be very effective. But I 
saw pretty quickly how I could have a pretty major im- 
pact on the way this worked. It took me a little bit of 
time to build up my courage, knowing what the con- 
sequences would be — and then I started bidding and 
started driving up the prices. But I knew I could be do- 
ing more. So then I started winning bids, and disrupt- 
ing it as clearly as I could. 1 

Tim won about a dozen lots in a row — until the auctioneer 
realized something was wrong, suspended the proceedings, 
and had Tim arrested. 

After Obama took office, his administration investigated the 
auction for “irregularities,” and a federal judge cancelled the sales. 
Tim’s action — which singlehandedly saved many precious acres of 
Utah wilderness from destruction — stands out as one of the most 
inspired and successful acts of civil disobedience in recent history. 

At his sentencing hearing, Tim addressed the presiding 
judge to explain his actions. He concluded his remarks with 
the following words: 

I want you to join me in standing up for the right and 
responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. 

I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich his- 
tory of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those 
values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the 


CASE: Bidder 70 


power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide 
range of community service efforts that would point my 
commitment to a healthy 
and just world down a differ- 
ent path. You can have me 
work with troubled teens, 
as I spent most of my career 
doing. . . . You can steer that 
commitment if you agree 
with it, but you can’t kill it. 

This is not going away. 

At this point of unimagina- 
ble threats on the horizon, 
this is what hope looks like. 

In these times of a morally bankrupt government that 
has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks 
like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love 
looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are 
making today is what side are you on . 1 2 


“Tim’s action 
stands out as 
one of the most 
inspired and 
successful acts of 
civil disobedience 
in recent history.” 


After reading his statement, Tim was sentenced to two 
years in federal prison. 


Tim took bold and effective action, and then used the 
coverage and attention his act generated as a platform to both 
defend his action and call for bolder action by the climate 
movement in general. His closing statement to the judge, ex- 
cerpted above, became a rallying cry for other organizing ef- 
forts — like the Tar Sands Action against the Keystone XL 
Pipeline later that year — and countless other acts of civil dis- 
obedience. Tim and his allies stood strong in defense of his 
actions, effectively demonstrating why civil disobedience was 
necessary to stop the climate crisis. 


CREATIVE DISRUPTION: Tim intervened directly in the proceed- 
ings that would have sold off beloved public lands to the oil 


1 Democracy Now! “Posing as a bidder, Utah student disrupts government auction,” December 22, 2008. 

2 Tim DeChristopher, “/ do not want mercy, I want you to join me," Common Dreams, July 27, 2011. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 

Action logic p. 20 

The commons p. 220 

The tactics of everyday life p. 268 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


CASE: Bidder 70 


291 


OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Infiltration p. 64 
Direct action p. 32 


companies. He hit upon an effective way to make sure the auc- 
tion did not proceed (basically inventing a new kind of cre- 
ative disruption on the spot), and then defended that action 
without compromise. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
Turn the tables p. 190 
This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 
Anger works best when you have 
the moral high ground p. 96 
One no, many yesses web 


GET ARRESTED IN AN INTELLIGENT WAY: The case against Tim 
has provided him with a very large platform to call for further 
civil disobedience. Tim and his allies used every step of his 
case to attack the political system and economic interests that 
allow climate change to happen. His powerful final statement 
to the court, and the jail time he subsequently served, are the 
clearest examples of this. 

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE: Even when given the chance, Tim 
did not stand up and harangue the crowd of oil men, knowing 
such a crude disruption would be futile. Instead, he opted to 
do something seemingy compliant, but ultimately deeply dis- 
ruptive: he played along with the bidding process until it be- 
came clear that he had no intention of paying for all the leases 
he’d won. Then he turned his attention to another, more dis- 
persed audience: activists who would be inspired by his ex- 
ample, and the public whose sympathies could shift toward 
greater support for action on climate change see PRINCIPLE: 
Shift the spectrum of allies. 


292 


CASE: Bidder 70 



"... those who write the rules are those who profit from the status quo. If we want to change that status quo, we might 
have to work outside of those rules because the legal pathways available to us have been structured precisely to make 
sure we don't make any substantial change." Portrait by Robert Shetterly/ www.americanswhotellthetruth.org 


CASE: Bidder 70 


293 





Donor Show 


WHEN 

June 1, 2007 

WHERE 

Broadcast in the Netherlands 
by the Dutch public 
broadcaster BNN. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Dutch broadcaster BNN and Endemol 
Director Paul Romer 
Laurens Drillich, BNN Chairman 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

De G rote Donorshow website 

http://sites.bnn.nl/page/donorshow 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Silas Harrebye 


De Grote Donorshow, a hoax TV program presented as a reality 
show, stands as one of the most effective and unique public 
awareness campaigns in recent years. The premise of the show 
was that a terminally ill woman would donate her kidney to 
the most worthy person of a group of people needing kidney 
transplants. She would make her selection based on how the 
contestants answered a series of questions, much like a dating 
program. Viewers were able to weigh in via text message on 
whom they thought should receive the life-saving kidney. 

Even before it was aired, the show provoked much heated 
discussion. Soon media across the Netherlands and beyond 
were debating the ethics of waiting lists and the propriety of 
turning organ donation into public entertainment. On June 
1, 2007, when the show finally aired, millions of viewers world- 
wide tuned in to watch. 

The surprising twist to an already spectacular and highly 
controversial program was that it was all a hoax. Just before 
the alleged cancer patient was about to choose the lucky re- 
cipient of her kidney, the host announced that the “cancer 
patient” was actually a hired actor. The entire program had 
been staged to raise awareness about the insufficient number 
of organ donors in the country. He then announced that the 
people who were performing as competitors to receive a kid- 
ney were, however, real patients awaiting kidney donors. 

Within a day, 30,000 donor registration forms were request- 
ed. A month after the show aired, 7,300 new donors were regis- 
tered by the Dutch donor registration. In Denmark alone, 700 
citizens registered as donors the day after the program was 
aired — fifteen times the average on a regular Saturday. The 
show won an International Emmy for non-scripted entertain- 
ment. 


WHY IT WORKED This stunt was successful because the TV network used its 

prestige as a broadcaster to send a powerful political message. 
The cautionary glimpse at how the future might look forced 
the viewers to reflect on their own agency as witnesses to the 
disgusting spectacle of people competing for organ donations. 

The stunt worked by breaking the implicit contract between 

294 CASE: The Big Donor Show 


Related: 


broadcaster and viewer to make clear distinctions between 
truth and fiction. What justified the prank is that while the 
show itself wasn’t real, the issues that it addressed were. The 
act of deception served to expose a very real need that was not 
being met, with the spectators forced to confront their own 
agency to address the issue. 


THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Society of the Spectacle p. 266 
Points of intervention p. 250 


HOAX: The hoax is not only an effective tactic to get an issue 
on the agenda, it is also capable of causing a type of embar- 
rassment that not only provokes reflection, but forces us to 
reflect on our most deeply held beliefs and take action. It lures 
people in and exposes them to a subversive idea when they are 
most vulnerable. In this case, it also pointed toward a practical 
way of responding to the issue it raised. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


THE REAL ACTION IS YOUR TARGET’S REACTION: Researchers and 
politicians who had been quick to denounce the show and 
lament its social implications were forced to revisit their initial 
diagnoses, thus offering useful meta-reflection on the event, 
their own role as commentators, and the future of reality TV. 
Millions of ordinary viewers were forced to do the same. 

BE AN ETHICAL PRANKSTER A lot of people felt misled after the 
show, and the trustworthiness of the channel might have suf- 
fered, but the positive outcome cannot be denied. So a few 
questions remain: do the ends justify the means? and how do 
you weigh competing causes or principles? — both classical 
activist dilemmas. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Bring the issue home p. 106 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Show, don't tell p. 174 


DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR THEM: The donor show gave journal- 
ists around the world an excuse to cover the critical lack of 
organ donors. Many important issues have the same strategic 
challenge: they are chronic problems rather than acute crises, 
and therefore do not live up to the criteria for what makes 
news. If you add an unexpected twist to a good story with a 
clear and provocative point, as the Big Donor Show did, you 
provide the hook the media needs. 


CASE: The Big Donor Show 


295 



CASE STUDY: 

Billionaires for Bush 


WHEN 

2000-2009 
with biggest spike in 2004 

WHERE 

U.S.A. 

EPIGRAPH 

“Shut up! You are not helping 
the President get re-elected. 
You are making the Republican 
Party look like a bunch of out- 
of-touch elitists! Assholes!” 

-Email from an exasperated Republican 


PRACTITIONERS 

Billionaires for Bush 
Billionaires for Wealthcare 
United for a Fair Economy 
Ladies Against Women 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Jeremy Varon 
Andrew Boyd 
Brian Fairbanks 



The “Billionaires’’ used wit, hijinx and great duds to sneak their radical critique of crony capitalism into the corporate 
media. Photo by London Nordeman. 

“Some people call you the elite,” George W. Bush joked to 
his wealthy funders, “I call you my base.” Whether candidate 
Bush meant it as a joke or not, the Billionaires for Bush (B4B) 
campaign used humor, street theater and creative media ac- 
tions to show the country how true the quip was. Working to 
expose how the Republican Party serves the interests of the 
super-rich, the Billionaires also addressed the broader issues 
of economic inequality and corporate greed. 

An early version of the campaign in 2000, “Billionaires 
for Bush (or Gore),” had spread virally via the internet and 
mainstream media exposure. It rebranded itself for the 2004 
election, taking as its crusade the defeat of Bush. The New 
York City chapter took the lead, assembling talented volun- 
teers, among them professional designers, media producers, 
and actors. It then put the campaign pieces in place. A stylish 
logo swapped the Republican elephant with a piggy bank 
stuffed with bills. Satirical slogans — “Repeal the First 
Amendment,” “Free the Forbes 400,” “Corporations are peo- 
ple too” — adorned bumper stickers, buttons, and a slick 
website, mimicking the look of Bush-Cheney propaganda. A 


296 


CASE: Billionaires for Bush 



songwriter produced tuneful renditions of what the super- 
wealthy really think, performed by meticulously rehearsed 
singers. The members themselves adopted personae, with 
names and costumes to match, spoofing iconic versions of 
the .01 percent: the Monopoly - style robber baron (Phil T. 
Rich), the dim-witted heiress (Alexis Anna Rolls), the trust- 
fund fuck-up (Monet Oliver D’Place), and so on. 

Soon, the Billionaires could 
be found talking down to “the 
little people” at Bush-Cheney 
campaign events, left-wing ral- 
lies, and street corners. They 
could also be found all over the 
mainstream media, garnering 
thousands of hits, including 
multiple features in the New 
York Times and on network and 
cable TV. Even the chant “Watch 
more Fox News, then you’ll 
share our right-wing views!” 
made it to air... on Fox News. 

Media coverage was generat- 
ed by carefully planned hoaxes, 
such as the appearance, to a 
throng of adoring billionaires, 
of a Karl Rove impostor at a GOP fundraiser. Other times, 
the campaign outsmarted the authorities to attract the media 
glare, such as when it held a croquet match on Central Park’s 
“Great Lawn,” from which a half-million anti-Bush demonstra- 
tors had been banned by New York’s mayor. The media was 
smitten by the Billionaires’ glamour and charmed by their 
say-the-opposite-of-what-you-believe theatrics. 

The campaign was designed to be participatory and na- 
tional. The core idea was easy both to replicate and embellish. 
Activists could download the materials they needed to do 
local actions, while a held organizer helped set up chapters in 
swing states like Ohio. By late July the hundreds of B4B “bil- 
lionaires” from thirty states who showed up to protest at the 
Republican National Convention far exceeded the number of 
actual billionaires working hard for their President. 

Deflated by Bush’s victory, the B4B idea nonetheless lived 
on, generating spin-off campaigns such as Billionaires for 
Wealthcare, active in the health care debates of 2008-9. Often 


“ Some observers 
remained fatally 
confused as to the 
group’s message. 
Occasionally ; 
true conservatives 
begged the 
Billionaires not 
to make Bush look 
bad by being so 
brazenly pro-rich.. ” 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Billionaires for Bush 

http://billionairesforbush.com 

Haugerud, Angelique. The Billionaires: 
Satirical Political Activism 
in America Today. Stanford, California: 
Stanford University Press, 2013. 

Bogad, Larry. “A Place for Protest: 
res for Bush Interrupt the 
Hegemonologue” in Performance 
and Place. Eds, Leslie and Helen 
Paris. New York: Palgrave McMillian, 
2006. Full article available online at: 
http://trb. la/xOOZqz 

Boyd, Andrew. “TRUTH ISA VIRUS: Meme 
Warfare and the Billionaires for Bush 
[or Gore]’’ in Cultural Resistance Reader, 
ed. Stephen Duncombe. New York: Verso, 
2002. Full article available online at: 
http://trb.la/zyXyR6 

Haugerud, Angelique. “Neoliberalism, 
Satirical Protest, and the 2004 U.S. 
Presidential Campaign" in Ethnographies 
of Neoliberalism, ed. Carol J. 

Greenhouse. Philadelphia: University 
of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 

Related: 

THEORIES 

Memes p. 242 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
The social cure p. 264 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 


CASE 

The Clandestine Insurgent 
Rebel Clown Army p. 304 


CASE: Billionaires for Bush 


297 



feeling in 2004 like a clever joke in the wilderness, the cam- 
paign in fact anticipated many of the core concerns of Occupy 
Wall Street and other “Great Recession”-era activism. 

WHY IT WORKED 

B4B pulled off tricky balancing acts. It was a highly disciplined 
media campaign that was also able to invite creative partici- 
pation and grow virally. It had a scrappy, DIY feel but used 
high-production values, tight messaging, and sex appeal to 
wow the media and audiences alike. It addressed serious issues 
with irony, humor, and camp. The result was an entertaining 
and accessible vehicle for speaking about realities of American 
life often ignored in public discourse. The costuming and 
alter-ego-tripping was also empowering for the group itself: no 
matter one’s station in life, one could become someone impor- 
tant and “fabulous” — it was like drag for the middle class. For 
all these reasons, the campaign inspired in its participants an 
extraordinary level of commitment — to their “characters” 
and to the larger struggle for justice. 

WHAT DIDN’T WORK 

Though dedicated to defeating Bush, the Billionaires had no 
hard deliverables, like voter turnout. And regardless of the 
media exposure, nationally and in swing states, there is no 
evidence that B4B messaging actually “swung” voters. The 
campaign therefore risked being an in-house joke, best appre- 
ciated by those already opposing Bush, or a media curiosity, 
ripe for fluff pieces from the campaign trail. 

KEY TACTIC 

used 

DISTRIBUTED ACTION: Well-crafted actions, occurring simulta- 
neously in disparate locales, amplified the campaign’s sense 
of unity, power, and reach. The B4B repertoire of distributed 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Infiltration p. 64 
Mass street action p. 68 
Media jacking p. 72 
Hoax p. 54 

actions included Cheap Labor Day, “Education is not for every- 
one Day” at the beginning of the school year, and others. “Dick 
Cheney is Innocent Day” began as a national day of action fea- 
turing coordinated, candle-lit vigils in front of Cheney’s VP 
residence in D.C., state capital buildings, an official Cheney 
speaking engagement in Milwaukee, and outside the Fox News 
windows in Times Square. Flyers were produced listing all of 
ol’ Dick’s many crimes (but protesting how baseless they were, 
of course ! ) and made available for easy download, alongside a 
national press release 

298 

CASE: Billionaires for Bush 


DETOURNEMENT/CULTURE JAMMING: The Billionaire spectacle 
was a mindbending double- or triple-take: apparent Bush sup- 
porters, spewing over-the-top pro-Bush rhetoric, were really 
Bush opponents, who made the Republicans appear both ve- 
nal and ridiculous. Some observers remained fatally confused 
as to the group’s message. Occasionally, true conservatives 
begged the Billionaires not to make Bush look bad by being 
so brazenly pro-rich. Most people, however, soon got the joke: 
that the Republicans, despite their populist rhetoric, are a 
party of, by, and for the wealthy. Sometimes the Billionaires 
“jammed” the earnest culture of the political left. Retorting 
“This is what plutocracy looks like!” and “Whose Street? Wall 
Street!” to familiar lefty chants, the Billionaires suggested that 
progressive advocates of We the People had little inkling of 
the wealth and influence they were up against. The Billion- 
aires tried to speak truth to — and about — power. 


DON’T DRESS LIKE A PROTESTER: The Billionaires were distin- 
guished from other anti-Bush activists by their upper-crust 
look and ironic messaging, which denounced the Republi- 
cans through parodic expressions of reactionary principles. 
As something new and different, the campaign avoided the 
media’s boredom with covering angry protesters protesting, 
well, angrily. The result was media exposure of B4B messaging 
vastly disproportionate to the group’s size and resources. 

MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Politicians often avoid any direct 
reference to their ultimate agenda, especially when their plan 
is to plunder. The activist must expose their true intent. This 
“unmasking” was central to B4B shtick, and was the basis for 
particular actions. In 2005, the Billionaires joined the fight 
against Bush’s plan to privatize social security, which would 
have been the biggest shift of public capital in history. To dra- 
matize this outcome, Billionaires for Bush auctioned off Social 
Security in the most public forum available: eBay. The auction 
limited bidding to Wall Street bankers and casino operators 
and broke down the numbers on exactly what was to be gained 
by the wealthy and lost by the rest. Though eBay quickly took 
down the auction, more than 25,000 people visited the sale, 
and bidding peaked at $99,999,999. For days, media coverage 
continued to spread the message: “Billionaires for Bush auc- 
tioned off Social Security on eBay.” 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make it funny web 

Brand or be branded p. 104 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Enable don't command p. 132 

Delegate p. 122 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Think narratively p. 18 6 

Create levels of participation web 

Balance art and message p. 104 


CASE: Billionaires for Bush 


299 



CASE STUDY: 


Citizens’ Posse 


WHEN 

March 9, 2010 

WHERE 

Washington, D.C. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Agit-Pop Communications 
Health Care for America Now (HCAN) 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Sellers 


In early spring of 2010, the 
prospects of the U.S. Con- 
gress passing comprehensive 
health care reform were look- 
ing bleak. The Democrats had 
caved on the public option, 
the Blue Dogs were turning 
red, and Democratic leaders 
weren’t sure if they had the 
votes to pass anything. 

Most of the mainstream 
players in the health care reform movement were busy on Cap- 
itol Hill “making sausage” while the reform bill grew weaker 
and less popular by the day. An edgier wing of health care 
reformers, however, were looking to expand the theater of 
conflict a la Donald Rumsfeld. We had to remind people why 
reform was needed and we knew that if we could expose the 
criminal behavior of Big Insurance, they would be convicted 
in the court of pubic opinion. 

Luckily, a perfect target presented itself. AHIP, the top 
health insurance lobbying group, decided to bring their chief 
executives and lobbyists together at a fancy hotel in downtown 
Washington, D.C., for a summit. They sensed they were close 
to total victory. They needed to plot out their final moves, 
smoke their final cigars and cut their final backroom deals. 

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) — an alliance of 
labor unions, the progressive netroots, and a host of commu- 
nity-based organizations — hired Agit-Pop to help them go 
big, creative, and militant. Our job was to stage a major street 
action that would finally tell the story right: Americans want 
affordable universal health care; insurance companies don’t 
because they’re profiting from a broken system. 

We decided to cast the CEOs as organized crime bosses 
who bribed politicians, denied health care to the critically ill, 
and ran real Death Panels for profit. We cast participants in the 
planned rally as a “People’s Posse” which would be composed 
of ordinary people called upon to bring these corporate crim- 
inals to justice. 

Union leaders were skeptical about whether their folks 



300 


CASE: Citizens’ Posse 


WANTED 


BY THE 
AMERICAN 
PEOPLE 



David Cordani: CIGNA CEO 

CASE N.. 405X2 ti 


45,000 COUNTS OF INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER 

• deaths incurred in the process of pursuing insurance industry profit 

Title 18 US Code § 1112 

BREACH OF CONTRACT & FRAUD - denial of promised 
coverage paid for by working Americans 

Title 25 US Code § 3116 

MONEY LAUNDERING - clandestinely transferred $10-20 
million dollars to fund attacks designed to deny health coverage 

Title 18 US Code § 1956 

BRIBERY OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS 

Title 18 US Code § 201 


IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION CONCERNING THIS PERSON, 
PLEASE NOTIFY YOUR LOCAL OFFICE OF PUBLIC 
ACCOUNTABILITY AT CITIZENSPOSSE.COM 


Wanted Flyer M2 A 
Feb 25. 3010 


EXHIBIT II 

TO THE AFFIDAVIT OF 
THE! -S CITIZENS 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Citizens' Posse website 

http://citizensposse.com/ 

Video of the action 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=kMrF0ySI8SE 

Related: 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 


would take to the “posse” frame. But on action day, when 
their members saw the “CEO Wanted” posters, Citizens’ Posse 
badges and crime scene tape, they quickly wanted in. Our 
action had two marches of 1,500 people each converge on the 
D.C. Ritz Carlton. At that point, we surrounded the building, 
declared it a crime scene, and posted wanted posters of the 


CASE: Citizens' Posse 



WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 
Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Blockade p. 14 
Direct action p. 32 


CEOs. We had a rally with rousing speeches about corporate 
criminals, which culminated with William McNary deputizing 
the crowd by administering the Citizens’ Posse Oath of Office. 
Then several union presidents and a VIP posse attempted to 
enter the hotel and make citizens’ arrests. Ten VIP deputies 
were eventually taken into custody by D.C.’s finest. 

As a result, the reform movement got a much-needed shot 
in the arm, and we owned the media cycle for a critical day or 
two in the homestretch to the vote. The bill (however flawed) 
eventually passed. 


The action used a clear and powerful frame (corporate 
criminals brought to justice by the people) that not only 
made it clear who the good and bad guys were, but told a 
story for the media. It also gave the 3,000 angry liberals who 
showed up a powerful role to play and an animated narra- 
tive arc that kept them in motion. Finally, it allowed layers of 
creative elaboration (badges, wanted posters, oath of office, 
giant crime tape, etc.). 

The posse action was designed to empower everyone in 
attendance across the board. However, labor insisted that 
their presidents play the lead roles throughout the day and be 
the center of attention, which led to an unnecessary, long and 
mostly boring rally until “The Oath” was administered. Also, 
we designed the Citizens’ Posse frame to be easily adaptable by 
any organization or movement confronting criminal corporate 
behavior, regardless of their issue silo. Unfortunately, no one 
has picked it up and used it again. 


MASS STREET ACTION: Too often street actions are like dances 
that everyone already knows the steps to : (A) march, followed by 
rally, with people speechifying from the stage, or (B) set-piece 
acts of civil disobedience with everyone singing Kumbaya until 
they’re arrested (or worse, ignored). The posse achieved a greater 
degree of militancy and dynamism by putting “We the People” 
in a heroic role that called for action throughout the action. 


302 


CASE: Citizens’ Posse 


THINK NARRATIVELY: The “posse” framework set up clear good 
and bad guys and put a whole universe of iconography and sto- 
ry elements at our disposal. All the rally speakers hammered 
on the “criminal” behavior of the insurance companies and 
their conspiracy with crooked politicians. By deputizing the 
crowd, we pulled them into the story and the action in a heroic 
role that demanded justice and respect. 

USE THE POWER OF RITUAL: The most powerful moment of the 
whole action was when the entire 3,000-strong crowd, in call- 
and-response style, ritually took the Citizen’s Posse oath: 

I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitu- 
tion of the United States against all enemies, foreign 
and domestic. [...] In the tradition of citizen posses 
throughout American history who in times of need 
have been called to service to bring criminals — cor- 
porate or otherwise — to justice, I swear to well and 
faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I 
am about to enter. So help me Jefferson. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make your actions both concrete 

and communicative p. 1 54 

Pick battles big enough to matter, 

small enough to win web 

Anger works best when you have 

the moral high ground p. 96 

Use powerful metaphors web 

Lead with sympathetic characters 146 

Reframe p. 168 

Re-capture the flag web 


SIMPLE RULES LEAD TO GRAND RESULTS: The “citizens’ posse” 
concept provided an organic way for individuals to participate 
that helped the 3,000-strong mass in the streets operate as a 
cohesive whole. The rules were simple — take this oath, put 
on this badge, try to bring the corporate criminals to justice 
— yet the overall frame it set up for the crowd (and the media 
covering it) was grand and powerful. 


CASE: Citizens' Posse 


303 


CASE STUDY: 

Clandestine Insurgent Rebel 
Clown Army 

(CIRCA) 


WHEN 

2003 -Present 

WHERE 

London, then global 

PRACTITIONERS 

Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown 
Army Deconstructionist 
Institute of Surreal Topology 
Deterritorial Support Group 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Jordan 



Hoping against hope, clowns ask for their toys back from Nice Mr. Policeman 

To some, the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) 
might appear to be but a ragged bunch of activists sporting 
false noses, a smudge of grease paint, camouflage pants and 
bad wigs. And those people may be right. But it is also a highly 
disciplined army of professional clowns, a militia of authentic 
fools, a battalion of true buffoons. 

Art activist John Jordan and colleagues L.M. Bogad, Jen 
Verson and Matt Trevelyan founded CIRCA in late 2003 to 
welcome arch-clown George W. Bush on his royal visit to 
London. CIRCA aimed to be a new methodology of civil 
disobedience, merging the ancient art of clowning with con- 
temporary tactics of nonviolent direct action. It went on to 
be a successful meme and international protest phenomenon, 
with self-organized groups taking action in the streets outside 
summits and military bases in dozens of countries from 
Colombia to New Zealand. 


CASE: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 


CIRCA worked with professional clowns to develop a meth- 
odology, rebel clowning, that introduced play and games into 
the process of political organizing. We developed a series of 
trainings that encouraged activists to reprogram their bodies, 
to develop their intuition and to “find their clown” — a child- 
like state of generosity and spontaneity. Rebel clown trainings 
attempted to peel off the activist armor and find the vulnerable 
human within. 

Emphasizing the inner work of personal transformation 
that too many movements ignore, CIRCA viewed both soul 
and street as sites of struggle. The deep work of clowning, in- 
volving real letting go and finding the absolute spontaneous 
self, can have profoundly liberating psychological effects on 
participants. CIRCA’s combatants are not meant to pretend to 
be clowns, they should be real clowns. Clowning is a state of 
being rather than a technique. 

It’s a core CIRCA premise that mocking and utterly con- 
fusing the enemy can be more powerful than direct confron- 
tation. In one instance, a seventy-person-strong gaggle of 
clowns walked straight through a line of UK riot cops who, 
strangely, could not hold their line. When the video footage 
of the event was examined, it turned out that beneath their 
visors the cops were laughing too much to be able to concen- 
trate. Other clowns filled their pockets with so much strange 
junk that it took hours and lots of paper work when stop-and- 
searches occurred. A favorite tactic was to walk into army re- 
cruitment agencies and, in a clownish way, try to join up, thus 
causing so much chaos that the agencies had to close down 
for the day, whereupon CIRCA would set up its own shabby 
recruitment stall outside. 

Turn-of-the-century anarchist Emma Goldman posed this 
problem: “how to be one’s self and yet in oneness with others, 
to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain one’s own 
characteristic qualities.” CIRCA bridged that divide, allowing 
participants to discover their own inner clown while at the 
same time wearing a “uniform” that made them feel part of 
a strongly bonded group. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

CIRCA website 

www.clownarmy.org 

Kolonel Klepto and Major Up Evil. “The 
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 
goes to Scotland via a few other Places." 
In Shut Them Down!: The G 8, Gleneagles 
2005 and the Movement of Movements, 
edited by David Harvie, David Watts, 
and Ben Trott. Autonomedia, 2006. 

L.M. Bogad, “The Clandestine Insurgent 
Rebel Clown Army." Journal of Aesthetics 
and Protest Issue 3, June 2004. 

http://www.journalofaesthetic- 

sandprotest.org/3/bogad.htm 

L. M. Bogad, “Carnivals Against Capital: 
Radical Clowning and the Global Justice 
Movement," Social Identities: Journal 
for the Study of Race, Nation and 
Culture 16.4 (Summer 2010): 537-557. 

John Jordan, “Notes whilst walking on 
‘How to break the heart of empire." 
European Institute for Progressive 
Cultural Policies. August 2005. 

http://trb.la/z45r4E 

Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical Spectacle p. 230 
Ham oq Sc homos p. 236 
Memes p. 242 


Rebel clowning was a gateway for lots of people to get involved 
in radical politics who were otherwise put off by its serious- 
ness. For many recruits, it was their first experience of civil 
disobedience, but the playfulness and mask-like make-up em- 


WHY IT WORKED 


CASE: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 


305 


powered diem to be deeply disobedient, often in unexpect- 
edly absurd and creative ways. 

Clowning is a state 

WHAT DIDN’T WORK There 8 nothing worse than a f ^ 

bad clown — and being a good Ul U J “ 

one is hard. Anyone who has than a technique.” 

seen the great clowns of the 

world — Chaplin, say, or Keaton — realizes how difficult an 
art it is to master. Less is often more. As rebel clowning be- 
came popular with activists in the mid 2000s, many wanted 
to join up with CIRCA but few were prepared to follow the 
intense training. Many bad “hippie” clowns made it onto the 
street. CIRCA founders also underestimated how hard it was 
to be a good clown, and in their rush to build mass actions of 
hundreds of clowns, they forgot to start small and build. 



Insurgent Clowns on a stroll. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct action p. 32 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Moss street action p. 68 


CARNIVAL-PROTEST: The use of carnivalesque forms of resis- 
tance was a key tactic for the global anti-capitalist mass actions 
of the 1990s. CIRCA took this carnival spirit deeper into the 
individual mind and body of the activist. Clowning exists on 
the borderlines, dancing delicately on the edge of chaos, some- 
where between life and art, being and pretending. Clowns are 
both fearsome and innocent, wise and stupid, healers and 
laughing stocks, scapegoats and subversives. They take this 


306 


CASE: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 


carnivalesque spirit with them wherever they go, infecting the 
body politic with insurrectionary dreams. When a crisis hits 
a culture, perhaps it is in these gray zones of creative uncer- 
tainty that we might find the answers. 


USE ABSURDITY TO UNDERMINE THE AURA OF AUTHORITY: Ridicule 
and absurdity are powerful tools against authority. To be effec- 
tive, authority has to be perceived as such, otherwise people 
would never obey its commands. On the other hand, who ever 
takes a clown seriously? Rebel clowning used this slippery di- 
chotomy to great effect, turning the tables on authority in the 
street by posing in mock-serious fashion next to lines of cops, as 
well as at the highest levels of power, by pointing out the clown- 
ish behavior of George W. Bush and other authority figures. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Anyone can act p. 98 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Escalate strategically p. 134 


GET ARRESTED IN AN INTELLIGENT WAY: Watching police hand- 
cuff and bundle clowns into police vans is always entertaining 
for passersby, begging the question: What did the clowns do 
wrong? What is this all about? An arrested clown also makes 
for very mediagenic images. By staying in character during the 
whole process of an arrest, including giving their clown army 
names (e.g., Private Joke) and addressees (e.g., the big top in 
the sky) as their real identity, rebel clowns caused much mirth 
and havoc in the police stations. 


REFRAME: Rebel clowning helped reframe the media images of 
protests during the big summit mobilizations of the mid 1990s. 
A colorful band of disobedient clowns could easily capture 
the limelight and shift the narrative away from “violent clash- 
es” and smashed windows. 


CASE: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 


307 



CASE STUDY: 

Colbert roasts Bush 


WHEN 

April 29, 2006 

WHERE 

Washington, D.C. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Stephen Colbert 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: Colbert Roasts Bush - ZOO 6 
White House Correspondents' Dinner 

http://trb.la/xMMDiE 

A full transcript of the speech is 
available in the back of Colbert's book: 
Stephen Colbert, I Am America (and So 
Can You!] New York: Grand Central 
Publishing Hachette Book Group, 2007) 

Salon, “The Truthiness Hurts," 
May 1, 200 6 

http://trb.la/yOvOvl 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Elisabeth Ginsberg 


Every year, a celebrity, often a comedian, is invited to roast 
the President at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, 
an annual gathering of journalists who regularly cover the 
White House and the President. But it isn’t every year that the 
President has “that look that he’s ready to blow,” 1 as an aide of 
President Bush expressed it after comedian Stephen Colbert 
delivered his speech in 2006. 


Speak 

Truthiness 



To Power 


Stephen Colbert performing at the White House correspondents' dinner, with his primary foil, President Bush, sitting 
nearby. The audience's uncomfortable refusal to give in and laugh at Colbert's jokes, perfectly captured in this photo, 
underscored the seriousness of Colbert’s attack. 


Colbert delivered his lines with militant irony, professing 
to approve of the very things about Bush he was in fact attack- 


308 


CASE: Colbert roasts Bush 



ing. He satirized a host of topics including the typically Repub- 
lican opposition to big governments by referencing the war in 
Iraq: “I believe the government that governs best is the govern- 
ment that governs least. And by these standards, we have set 
up a fabulous government in Iraq,” he said. He then turned to 
Bush’s decreasing popularity: 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Political jujitsu web 


Now, I know there are some polls out there saying that 
this man has a thirty-two percent approval rating. But 
guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls... We 
know that polls are just a collection of statistics that re- 
flect what people are thinking in “reality.” And reality 
has a well-known liberal bias. 


While Colbert’s mock defense of Bush took up most of 
the sixteen minute-long speech, he didn’t spare the gathered 
press corps either: “As excited as I am to be here with the pres- 
ident, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media 
that is destroying America. With the exception of Fox News. 
Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president’s 
side, and the vice president’s side,” he said before reviewing 
“the rules”: 

Here’s how it works. The president makes decisions. 
He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those 
decisions, and you people of the press type those 
decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em 
through a spell check and go home. Get to know your 
family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel 
you got kicking around in your head. You know, the 
one about the intrepid Washington reporter with 
the courage to stand up to the Administration? You 
know, fiction! 

Colbert’s sarcastic performance was broadcast live on the 
cable network C-SPAN and viewed on YouTube 2.7 million 
times in the first forty-eight hours after it was posted. By call- 
ing to account some of the world’s most powerful people as 


1 Paul Bedard, “Skewering comedy skit angers Bush and aides,” U.S. News & World Report 
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/060501/1whwatch.htm 

2 Dan Savage, "Dan Savage Interviews Frank Rich Before Frank Rich 
Interviews Stephen Sondheim," The Stranger. 

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/dan-savage-interviews-frank-rich/Content?oid=2535771 


CASE: Colbert roasts Bush 


309 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Identity Correction p. 60 


they sat, grinning uncomfortably, in the camera’s glare, he af- 
firmed his status as someone who speaks “truthiness” to power. 

If his intent was of to shame the president and the press 
into improvement, it’d be hard to call it a success. But judg- 
ing from online discussions of the speech, a good portion of 
the public experienced it as an empowering emperor-has-no- 
clothes moment. Liberal columnist Dan Savage, for example, 
referred to it as “one of the things that kept people like me 
sane during the darkest days of the Bush years.” For Bush’s 
critics, the speech felt like a victory. As with all victories, it was 
important for morale. 


An overall comic tension was created by the incongruity be- 
tween the celebratory format — with Bush himself only a few 
feet from the podium — and the scathing content of Colbert’s 
speech. To many people, especially Colbert fans, it was hilari- 
ous. However, relatively few people in the room laughed or 
otherwise applauded Colbert during his speech. The strength 
of Colbert’s ironic delivery was that to laugh was to admit that 
you got the joke — and the joke was on Bush, the Administra- 
tion and the entire press corps. The audience’s uncomfort- 
able refusal to give in and laugh at Colbert’s jokes thus indi- 
rectly affirmed the seriousness of his attack. 

Aware that his real audience was not the people present 
at the dinner see PRINCIPLE: Play to the audience that isn’t 
there, Colbert managed to deliver his entire performance 
with a minimum amount of comforting feedback from the 
audience. It worked — but only because he had the confi- 
dence and professionalism to pull it off. 


DETOURNEMENT/CULTURE JAM: For his performance, Colbert 
adopted the role of the character that he plays on his satirical 
news show, the Colbert Report. This same-name persona — whom 
Colbert has described in many interviews as a “well-intentioned, 
poorly informed, high-status idiot” — is carefully modeled on 
typical male Fox News hosts such as Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hanni- 
ty. Because the artifice of Colbert’s persona is obvious, there is 
no deception of the audience. Yet his critique remains indirect. 
It requires that the audience draw the conclusions. 


CASE: Colbert roasts Bush 


REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM: Instead of directly challenging Bush’s 
reasoning, Colbert ridiculed it by feigning total agreement. 
Enthusiastically extrapolating from Bush’s statements in ways 
Bush would not, Colbert carried the unspoken assumptions 
through to their presumably logical conclusions: “The great- 
est thing about this man is that he’s steady. You know where 
he stands,” Colbert said about Bush. “He believes the same 
thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday — no matter 
what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs 
never will,” Colbert concluded. It was the seeming logical out- 
come of Bush’s own reasoning but at the same time, of course, 
it was unacceptable to Bush, as it really pointed out the illogic 
of Bush’s “logic.” 

USE CHARACTERS: Taking on a character enabled Colbert to 
attack and ridicule the president in ways that would not have 
been permitted to the outright preacher, politician, or social 
reformer. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Play to the audience that isn’t there p. 160 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
The real action is your target's 
reaction web 

Balance art and message p. 100 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Everyone has balls of steel p. 136 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 
Reframe p. 168 


CASE: Colbert roasts Bush 


311 



in the Cage 


WHEN 

1992-1993 

WHERE 

Various museums across 
Europe and North America 

PRACTITIONERS 

Coco Fusco 
Guillermo Go mez-Peha 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Coco Fusco's website 

http://www.thing.net/~cocofusco/ 

Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s website 

http://www.pochanostra.com/ 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Elisabeth Ginsberg 


Performance artists Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco 
started their “The Couple in the Cage” tour five hundred 
years after Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. 
For two years, they travelled through various Western metrop- 
olises, presenting themselves as undiscovered Amerindians 
from an island in the Gulf of Mexico that had somehow been 
overlooked for five centuries. They called their homeland 
Guatinau and themselves Guatinauis. 



Two undiscovered Amerindians visit Columbus Plaza, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Peter Barker. 


Exhibited in a cage, the couple performed “traditional 
tasks,” which ranged from sewing voodoo dolls to watching 
television. A donation box in front of the cage indicated that 
for a small fee, the female Guatinaui would perform a tradi- 
tional dance (to rap music) , the male Guatinaui would tell au- 
thentic Amerindian stories (in a made-up language) , and they 
would both pose with visitors. At the Whitney Museum in New 
York, sex was added to the spectacle when visitors were offered 
a peek at “authentic Guatinaui male genitals” for five dollars. 

Next to the cage were two official-looking guards ready to 
answer visitors’ questions, feed the Guatinauis, and take them 
to the bathroom on leashes. In addition to the authority of 
the guards, an institutional framework was evoked by didactic 


312 


CASE: The Couple in the Cage 



Related: 


panels listing highlights from the history of exhibiting non- 
Western peoples and a simulated Encyclopedia Britannica en- 
try with a fake map of the Gulf of Mexico showing Guatinau. 

Aside from the authority provided by the various museum 
venues, everything on display was blatantly theatrical and 
clicheed: the Guatinauis had their skulls measured, were 
fed bananas, and were described as “specimens,” among 
other things. 

The performances were filmed and compiled in a docu- 
mentary titled The Couple in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey. 
Whereas the couple was the object on display during the live 
performance, the audience became the object on display 
during the documentary. While Fusco and Gomez-Pena 
adopted the roles of the caged natives, they were simultaneously 
scrutinizing the audience’s responses. And what they found 
was surprising: Despite their intent to create an over-the- 
top satirical commentary on Western concepts of the exotic, 
primitive Other, it turned out that a substantial portion of the 
audience believed in the authenticity of the Guatinauis. 

In an article about the performance, Fusco argues that the 
audience’s immediate response reveals their fundamental be- 
liefs: “In such encounters with the unexpected, people’s de- 
fense mechanisms are less likely to operate with their normal 
efficiency; caught off-guard, their beliefs are more likely to 
rise to the surface.” 1 

Seemingly making the same assumption, the documentary 
presents the audience’s reactions as indirect proof that racist 
beliefs — non-Western people are primitive, inferior, and es- 
sentially different from Western people — permeate our post- 
colonial society. Whether or not this is true, The Couple in the 
Cage persuasively argues that colonial ideas continue to influ- 
ence our approach to non-Western cultures. 


It was nearly impossible to respond “appropriately” to the 
display of the caged couple. What would have been the ideal 
audience reaction? To laugh? To appear indifferent and stone- 
faced? To turn away in disgust? Interact with (or try to free) the 
couple? There seemed to be no appropriate response, even if the 
audience caught on to the inauthenticity of the Guatinauis and 
got the ironic critique of similar displays from centuries past. 


THEORIES 

Action logic p. 250 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 20 


WHY IT WORKED 


CASE: The Couple in the Cage 


313 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Street theater web 
Invisible theater p. 66 
Fake press release web 
Cognitive dissonance web 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

The real action is your 
target’s reaction web 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 


If Fusco and Gomez-Pena intended to use the audience as 
nothing but an instrument to argue that colonial ideas pre- 
vail, the setup was perfect. However, if they intended it as 
an open examination of people’s beliefs (as they present- 
ed it), it is problematic that their performance offered the 
audience no legitimate alternative to enacting the role of the 
subjugating gazer and, in a way, no real agency: the audience 
couldn’t react in a way that dismissed the colonial structure of 
the encounter. 


HOAX: The Couple in the Cage was an ironic reenactment of the 
imperialist practice of displaying indigenous peoples in public 
venues such as taverns, museums, World Expos, and freak shows. 
By performing “The Couple in the Cage” in various museums, 
Fusco and Gomez-Pena were exposing the racism, colonialism, 
and voyeurism of the frame in which they appeared. 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: The performance is an example of silent elo- 
quence. It said it all — colonialism, primitivism, the myth of 
the noble savage, exoticism — without explicitly stating any- 
thing. Viewers were left to draw their own conclusions. 

MAKE THE AUDIENCE PART OF THE THEATER: Before the audience 
could fully digest and come to terms with the show, their re- 
sponses (via video) were turned into a show for another audi- 
ence. 

RECOGNIZE AN OPENING WHEN YOU SEE IT: When the audience 
seemed to enjoy the same colonial exhibition practice that the 
performance meant to critique, it added some unintended 
irony. Yet Fusco and Gomez-Pena were quick to seize the audi- 
ence’s misinterpretation and turn it into the focal point of the 
performance. 


CASE: The Couple in the Cage 



Two undiscovered Amerindians visit the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Photo by Robert Sanchez. 


1 Coco Fusco, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance," TDR: Journal of Performance Studies 
38, no. 1 (Spring 1994]: 148. 


CASE: The Couple in the Cage 


315 



CASE STUDY: 


Daycare center sit-in 


WHEN 

1989 

WHERE 

Providence, Rhode Island 

PRACTITIONERS 

Direct Action for Rights 
and Equality [DARE] 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


Low-income tenants at a public housing project in Rhode 
Island — many of them working mothers with young children — 
wanted an affordable daycare center in their building. With 
petitions, pickets, and letters to the city council, they built 
up a steady drumbeat of pressure on the key decision maker, 
the local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) director. 
At a certain point they decided to escalate with direct action 
see PRINCIPLE: Escalate strategically. They occupied the HUD 
director’s office. 

They didn’t just take it over with signs and shouting or a sim- 
ple sit-in, however. They brought their kids. They brought their 
kids’ toys. They brought song books, a diaper changing table, 
and a fold-out crib. And they marched right into the HUD direc- 
tor’s office and turned it into a daycare center. 

They stayed for the whole day, and invited the press. Eventu- 
ally HUD caved, and a permanent daycare center was set up in 
the housing project. 


WHY IT WORKED This action succeeded because it was very human and visual 

and had an underlying logic that was impossible to ignore. It 
was led by those most impacted by the issue: single moms with 
moral authority in spades. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct action p. 32 
Occupation p. 78 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Sit-in web 


PREFIGURATIVE ACTION: This action was, in essence, a sit-in, but 
it had quite a bit more going for it than your average sit-in. 
It wasn’t just disruptive, it was also constructive. The mothers 
didn’t just occupy the office and demand a daycare center — 
they made their own. Their daycare center may have only lasted 
a day, but it was a powerful and prefigurative statement. And 
by setting it up in the middle of the HUD office, they wielded 
the basic power of direct action: disrupting business-as-usual 
and increasing the pressure on HUD to meet their demands. 
It was both a barn raising and a sit-in; an act of mutual aid 
and a pressure tactic — and all the more powerful because of it. 


316 


CASE: Daycare center sit-in 


MAKE YOUR GROUP COMFORTABLE AND YOUR TARGET UNCOMFORTABLE: 

What could be more an organic part of these parents’ lives 
than taking care of their own kids? They were completely 
comfortable with it, and needed to do it anyway. By the same 
token, having toddlers climbing around the office furniture 
was quite foreign to the business-as-usual habits of the HUD 
staff. It was messy and chaotic and made the target uncom- 
fortable. Both of these dynamics helped shift power in the 
direction of the tenants, and made the target more willing to 
compromise. 

CREATE A THEATRICAL SITUATION THAT KEEPS THE ACTION GOING: 

Sometimes a protest can peter out because people don’t know 
what to do next. You get rebuffed by your target or the police 
and can’t figure out your next move, or you simply run out of 
chants, get bored, feel silly, and go home. But the set-up-your- 
own-day-care-center concept had a built-in theatrical logic 
and motivation that guided the whole action and kept it going 
all day. The tenants knew their roles well (they were simply 
playing themselves, the good parents they already were), and 
could respond naturally and “in character” to whatever action 
HUD or the police took, even if they were completely ignored. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Deploy sympathetic characters p. 146 

Pick battles big enough to matter, 

small enough to win web 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 

Take leadership from the 

most impacted p. 180 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Think narratively p. 18 6 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

Turn the tables p. 190 

Show, don't tell p. 124 


BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE: The tenants wanted a daycare 
center, so they made one themselves. They were the change 
they wanted to see in the world. This isn’t just good ethics, it’s 
good tactics, too. By walking their talk, the tenants demonstrat- 
ed an integrity and authenticity that was not only empowering 
for all who participated, but also earned them respect from the 
public and in the press. 


ACTION LOGIC: Everything the tenants needed to say was embed- 
ded in the action itself. The action made all of the elements of 
their cause visible: the reality of their need (young children), 
what they wanted (the daycare center they had set up) , and who 
was standing in the way (the HUD director) . The demand, the 
target, and the consequences of inaction were all organic parts 
of the action itself. 


KEY THEORY 

at work 

OTHER THEORIES AT WORK: 

Points of intervention p. 250 


CASE: Daycare center sit-in 


317 


CASE STUDY: 

Dow Chemical 
apologizes for Bhopal 


WHEN 

December 3, 2004 

WHERE 

BBC, 

broadcast worldwide 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Yes Men 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “Bhopal Disaster 
-BBC -The Yes Men ” 

http://trb.la/y3Gwy2 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mike Bonanno 


On the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, when 
an industrial gas leak killed thousands of people, a spokes- 
person for the company responsible appeared live on BBC 
World News and announces the impossible: Dow accepted 
full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and had created a 
$12 billion dollar plan to compensate the victims and clean 
up the site. 

When the broadcast ended, the BBC studio technician 
was beaming. “What a nice thing to announce,” she said. 

“I wouldn’t work for Dow if I didn’t believe in it,” he replied. 

He wasn’t lying, but he didn’t work for Dow either. In the 
next hour before the hoax was revealed, Dow’s stock tempo- 
rarily lost billions of dollars. 

Red-faced, the BBC chalked it up to an “elaborate hoax,” 
serving their need to cover up the truth: the cause of the 
hoax was almost too simple to believe: it all came down to a 
research error. 

On November 29, 2004, an email from a BBC researcher 
came in to DowEthics.com: The network was looking for a 
Dow representative to discuss the company’s position on the 
1984 Bhopal tragedy. (The DowEthics website had been set 
up two years earlier by the Yes Men for a different action, so 
the email was totally unexpected.) 

Since the Yes Men couldn’t afford to go to London with 
their pathetic American dollars, they asked to be booked 
into a studio in Paris, where Andy was living. No problem. 
Mr. Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finisterra (earth’s 
end) became Dow’s official spokesperson. 

What to say? We settled on the impossible: Jude would 
announce a radical new direction for the company, one in 
which Dow would take full responsibility for the disaster. 
We would lay out a straightforward ethical path for Dow 
to follow to compensate the victims, clean up the plant 
site, and otherwise help make amends for one of the worst 
industrial disasters in history. It would be impossible for 
Dow not to react in an embarrassing way, which would 
generate tons of press and needed attention to the disaster 


CASE: Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal 


see PRINCIPLE: Put your target in 
a decision dilemma) . 

After the announcement 
was made, the Yes Men helped 
Dow express itself more fully 
by mailing out a more formal 
retraction: “Dow’s sole and 

unique responsibility is to its 
shareholders, and Dow CAN- 
NOT do anything that goes 
against its bottom line unless 
forced to by law.” For a while, 
this statement — as picked up 
by Men’s News Daily, a reactionary drivel bucket that didn’t 
realize that the news release was also fake, and didn’t object to 
what it said — became the top story on Google News. 

The action put Bhopal and Dow front and center in the 
U.S. news on the twentieth anniversary of the disaster. And it 
forced Dow to show, by its curt refusal to do anything proac- 
tive, just what “corporate social responsibility” really means. 


‘ When the 
broadcast ended, 
the BBC studio 
technician was 
beaming. ‘What 
a nice thing 
to announce,’ 
she said." 


This action got massive coverage in the United States, where 
most Dow shareholders live. It reminded folks of the unfin- 
ished business in Bhopal, and let people know that Dow is 
the company that needs to be held accountable. 


IDENTITY CORRECTION: As fake Dow representative Jude Finis- 
terra said in the interview, this was “the first time in history 
that a publicly owned company went against their bottom 
line simply because it was the right thing to do.” And it was, 
of course, too good to be true: Dow quickly made clear that it 
would not do the right thing. . . simply because it went against 
their bottom line. 


PUT YOUR TARGET IN A DECISION DILEMMA: By announcing on 
live television that Dow was going to clean up the mess in 
Bhopal, the action forced Dow to respond. Any move they 
could make would make them look bad and draw further 
attention to their inaction on the issue. 


CASE: Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Environmental justice p. 228 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Points of intervention p. 250 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Hoax p. 54 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


319 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Anyone can act p. 98 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
Use others' prejudices against them p. 192 
Bring the issue home p. 106 
Anger works best if you have 
the moral high ground p. 96 


TAKE LEADERSHIP FROM THE MOST IMPACTED: Figuring out what 
Dow should say on the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal 
disaster proved to be easy: the work was already done by 
Bhopal activists, who had very specific demands, clearly ar- 
ticulated on their website. It was a simple matter of putting 
those words in Dow’s mouth. 

MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: When Dow’s stock fell because 
the market thought the company did a good deed for the 
Bhopal victims, it revealed the callousness of the market in 
an almost clinical way. 



Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonating Dow Chemical, poses with an “Acceptable Risk Golden Skeleton " that cel- 
ebrates the concept of acceptable (if. e., economically profitable) human risk. 


320 


CASE: Dow Chemical apologizes for Bhopal 




® CASE STUDY: 

Harry Potter Alliance 


WHEN 

2005-Present 

WHERE 

U.S.A. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Harry Potter Alliance 
Nerdfighters 
Harry and the Potters 
The International Quidditch Association 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “TEDxTransmedia 2011 - Andrew 
Slack - The strength of a story ” 

http://trb.la/zUgjvX 

Andrew Slack, “Cultural Acupuncture 
and a Future for Social Change." The 
Huffington Post, July 2, 2010. 

http://trb.la/xxjucy 

Abby Ohlheiser, “Fans of Action: How 
Harry Potter Inspired a New Generation 
of Activists," The Revealer 

http://therevealer.org/archives/9074 

Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official 
Weblong of Henry Jenkins, “How 
“Dumbledore’s Army” Is Transforming 
Our World: An Interview with the 
HP Alliance's Andrew Slack” 
http://trb.la/xQGSgC 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Slack 


In 2005, I was amazed by the Harry Potter fan-phenomenon. 
The franchise was the highest selling work of fiction in the 
history of literature. It cut across cultures. Besides the Ko- 
ran, it was the most requested book in the Guantanamo Bay 
prison. Fans invested enormous resources into conferences, 
wrote reams of fan fiction, started Quidditch sports leagues 
and tournaments and birthed an entire genre of music: 
Wizard Rock, with literally hundreds of bands, all singing 
about Harry Potter. 



And yet, I was frustrated. 

“If Harry Potter were in our world,” I realized, “he’d do 
more than talk about Harry Potter. If we really were fans of 
the books, we should fight injustice in our world, the way 
Harry did in his.” In the books, Harry starts a student activist 
group called Dumbledore’s Army that wakes the media and 
government to Voldemort’s return. I wanted to create aDumb- 


322 


CASE: Harry Potter Alliance 


ledore’s Army in our own world that could wake our media 
and governments to stop global warming and end genocide 
in Darfur. By tapping into a teenager’s narrative connection 
to Harry Potter, such an organization could create a fun and 
accessible point of entry into what could otherwise be intimi- 
dating social issues. 

In mid-2005, I met up with 
Harry and the Potters, two 
brothers, both indie rock musi- 
cians who dress as Harry Potter 
and sing wildly popular punk 
songs at concerts with audiences 
in the hundreds and sometimes 
thousands. Together, we and a 
few others founded the Harry Potter Alliance: a “novel” ap- 
proach to activism, and began using social media to organize 
the Harry Potter fanbase. Harry and the Potters reposted my 
action alerts to their 60,000 followers. Soon, other Wizard 
Rock bands were reposting the alerts. The biggest fan sites, 
like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet, caught on and me- 
dia coverage followed, with J. K. Rowling praising the group in 
Time magazine and on her own site. Soon the HPA was orga- 
nizing amongst almost every facet of the Harry Potter fandom, 
and grew to seventy volunteer staff and over ninety chapters 
around the world. 

To date, the HPA has sent five cargo planes of relief 
supplies to Haiti, donated 90,000 books to needy communities 
and schools across the world, and has made strides in advo- 
cating for human rights, LGBTQ equality, media reform and 
net neutrality. 


“Fan and nerd 
culture make up 
a huge section 
of the most active 
people online.” 


Related: 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 
Memes p. 242 
Floating signifier p. 234 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 


J. K. Rowling once worked for Amnesty International. She WHY IT WORKED 
believes in human rights and other core progressive val- 
ues and has woven them deeply into the stories. The HPA 
leverages the identification that millions of young readers 
have with Harry’s values, as well as the rich story parallels 
between his world and our own. Dumbledore’s Army fought 
media consolidation by the Daily Prophet and Wizarding 
Wireless Network; the HPA fights for net neutrality. Inspired 
by Harry, who fought inequality facing werewolves, half- 
giants, and Muggleborns, HPA members have set records 
phone banking for Massachusetts Equality. We’ve advocated 

CASE: Harry Potter Alliance 323 


for indigenous rights just as Dumbledore worked for centaur 
rights, and just as Hermione organized for equal wages, the 
HPA “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign is challenging War- 
ner Brothers to make all Harry Potter chocolate Fair Trade. 



The HPA Haiti Relief plane loaded and ready to go. 


KEY TACTIC DISTRIBUTED ACTION: HPA has over ninety offline chapters 

used worldwide, and relies on distributed action events as a way to 

act in unison. Our most successful actions have centered on 
the midnight releases of new Potter films. (They’re simultane- 
ous and worldwide, and people are already going, so it’s a great 
organizing opportunity.) We ask supporters to organize a spe- 
cific offline action in the movie theater line that goes with the 
theme of the him. Fan sites are more eager to advertise for 
this event, as they are already hyping the movie release. At one 
release night, the New York Times showed up at our flagship event, 
and we gathered thousands of petition signatures from people 
all over the world asking Warner Brothers to make all Harry 
Potter chocolate Fair Trade. Distributed actions around movie 
releases is a tactical approach that can be neatly put to work by 
other campaigns doing culture-based organizing. 


324 


CASE: Harry Potter Alliance 


KNOW YOUR CULTURAL TERRAIN: Meet people where they’re at, 
not where you want them to be. Harry Potter has tens of mil- 
lions of young fans. HPA went to that fanbase as a fan, and 
then from there to the political issues. HPA has also hooked 
into another huge base of young people: nerds. Fan and nerd 
culture make up a huge section of the most active people 
online, and nerdy teenagers are using the Internet to come 
together in unprecedented ways (just google HP, Hunger 
Games, Whedon or Dr. Who). The Nerdhghters (“nerds using 
the power of their awesome to fight world suck”) are already 
starting to do for nerd-dom what HPA has done for Harry Pot- 
ter fans. Remember to speak your group’s language and start 
with the values they would most readily respond to. 

THINK NARRATIVELY We need to organize through narratives 
on three levels: personal, collective, and mythological. The 
personal is your or your constituents’ individual story; the col- 
lective is the story of a nation or group; the mythological is 
the deeper, archetypal language of the psyche. Think: Avatar 
fans fighting against the Sky People (aka the coal industry) to 
protect the Pandora for our world. History’s villains — Hitler, 
bin Laden and mining companies — work the mythological 
level, the good guys must, too. In its best moments, the Harry 
Potter Alliance is engaging in this kind of cultural dreamwork 
and cultural acupuncture. 

CREATE ONLINE/OFFLINE SYNERGY: People congregate online 
around common interests, but long for offline and real-world 
connection. Give it to them. Offer the big fan websites and 
group leaders a chance to make a difference (they normally 
want it) while demonstrating how it will help them engage 
their audience more deeply. Have a project for them with a 
solid ask that is authentically in the language of their site/fan- 
dom. Use social media playfully, and with a healthy balance of 
the three P’s: patience, persistence, and pizzazz. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Consider your audience p. 118 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 

Brand or be branded p. 104 

Make your own myths web 

Hope is a muscle web 

By any media necessary web 

Use powerful metaphors web 


CASE: Harry Potter Alliance 


325 


<§>j 


CASE STUDY: 

ustice 


for Janitors (D.C.) 


WHEN 

1994-1995 

WHERE 

Washington, D.C. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Workers and strategic direct 
action practitioners 
SEIU 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

SEIU, “Justice for Janitors" 
http://trb.la/wp7UI6 
Movie /'The Corporation" 

http://trb.la/xuGUU 

Dan La Botz, Troublemaker’s Handbook: 
How to Fight Back Where You Work - 
and Win! Detroit: Labor Notes, 1991. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Lisa Fithian 


326 


In 1994, after ten years of organizing, the Janitors Union in 
Washington, D.C., had only organized about twenty percent 
of the commercial real estate buildings downtown — not 
nearly enough to put upward pressure on wages in the sector. 
A change in strategy was required. Over the next two years, 
Justice for Janitors organized a series of creative escalating 
actions weaving together corporate campaigns, worker orga- 
nizing, community support and direct actions, called Days 
of Rage. Within the year, 5,000 janitors — ninety percent of 
the D.C. market — were unionized and had won wage hikes 
and benefits. It was a huge victory. Justice for Janitors had hit 
upon one of the most successful union organizing strategies 
in recent U.S. history, and the Days of Rage model has been 
repeated in many places since then. 

The model requires several key components: 1) a visibility 
campaign designed to permeate the collective consciousness, 
2) strategic research and campaign planning to create a map 
and calendar of opportunities, and 3) creative and escalating 
direct actions focused on a clear target. Combined, these ele- 
ments help create a political crisis that forces the opponent to 
either resolve the issues or lose standing in the community. 

“D.C. Has Carr Trouble” was our main slogan in December 
of 1994. Oliver Carr was the biggest commercial real estate 
owner in D.C. and we thought our little pun creative, given 
how traffic was sure to be impacted by our bridge-blockading 
actions. We blocked buildings and parking garages of key real 
estate giants, took over lobbies and the streets, and got arrest- 
ed throughout the week. 

In March we went to the homes of real estate moguls and 
blocked the roads to the Capitol building by erecting mock 
houses in traffic lanes. Then we simultaneously took over the 
City Council Chambers, the office of Speaker of the House 
Newt Gingrich, and disrupted Congress from the House 
Gallery right after the morning prayer, demanding that the 
wealthy pay their fair share. 

September culminated in a massive action shutting down 
a major bridge from Virginia into D.C. In the middle of the 
highway, hundreds of janitors erected a classroom, complete 
with desks and chalk boards. We also parked a school bus and 


CASE: Justice for Janitors (D.C.) 


a school van across all four lanes, effectively closing the bridge. 

When called out for blocking the bridges, SEIU President 
John Sweeney replied: “I believe in building bridges whenever 
[we can] be a full partner with our employers and a full citizen 
of the communities we live in. But I believe in blocking bridges 
whenever those employers and those communities turn a deaf 
ear to the working families we represent.” 

The September actions had an impact beyond our expec- 
tations. Some Cabinet members couldn’t commute in. Flights 
were delayed at Reagan National Airport and the Senate had 
to delay votes. Needless to say, it was soon made a felony to 
block a bridge in D.C. Meanwhile, though, we had captured 
the hearts and minds of people in D.C. for whom janitors were 
no longer invisible. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
The social cure p. 264 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed p. 246 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 



Rick Reinhard 1995. 

The Janitors for Justice creative direct action model of 
organizing has been used again and again to great success, 
including the series of street actions in New York during 
the week of May 12, 2011, which to some degree set the 
stage for Occupy Wall Street and the growing movement 
against Big Banking. 


Hundreds of people were willing to use their bodies to take WHY IT WORKED 

and hold space. Mobility, flexibility and good research were 

critical, and so was working with allies. The escalating actions 

created a political crisis. The city could no longer tolerate 

what was happening, so they had to intervene, creating a 

political settlement in which the janitors won! 

CASE: Justice for Janitors (D.C.) 327 



WHAT DIDN’T WORK 



Rick Reinhard 1995. 


Our message in December 1994 that “D.C. has Carr Trouble,” 
was too clever by half. It did not make clear to the general 
public who was being impacted. In March of 1995 we shifted 
to “Pay Your Fair Share,” a much clearer message, which we 
carried into the September actions. It served us well. 


328 


CASE: Justice for Janitors (D.C.) 


BLOCKADE: With those risking arrest in the front, slow cars 
behind and blockade vehicles in the middle, we shut down nu- 
merous bridges. Mobile teams known as “flying squads” were 
key, as was having a committed group of people who showed 
up every day to be trained and participate in creative actions 
and social disruption. By concentrating that level of partici- 
pation and commitment over a specific period in a specific 
geographic zone, we created the kind of sociopolitical crisis 
needed to effect real change. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Mass street action p. 68 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Direct action p. 32 
General strike p. 50 


ESCALATE STRATEGICALLY: Building a campaign to win requires 
escalation over time, leading to a moment of compression and 
crisis. You have to start simply, keep training and building 
people’s confidence so that they take yet more radical steps 
and courageous actions. 

MAINTAIN NONVIOLENT DISCIPLINE: If you are going to build a 
political crisis using a committed minority, nonviolent disci- 
pline is critical. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Stay on message p. 178 
The real action is your target's 
reaction web 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 


ANGER WORKS BEST WHEN YOU HAVE THE MORAL HIGH GROUND: 

If you are going to block a bridge and inconvenience thou- 
sands, people must understand what’s at stake. You need to 
illustrate the depth of your commitment and passion for a just 
solution. You can then channel the resulting public anger to 
help solve the problem: If you are pissed about this inconvenience, 
we are sorry, but call the mayor and demand that he resolve these issues! 


CASE: Justice for Janitors (D.C.) 


329 


® CASE STUDY: 

Lysistrata Project 


WHEN 

March 3, 2003 

WHERE 

All over the world 

PRACTITIONERS 

Eve Ensler 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Lysistrata Project archive 

http://lysistrataprojectarchive.com/ 

Operation Lysistrata. Directed by Michael 
Patrick Kelly. Aquapio films, 2006. 

http://aquapiofilms.com/ 

operation-lysistrata 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Kathryn Blume 


It was early 2003. In the face of 
unprecedented global public 
opposition, the Bush Adminis- 
tration was moving relentlessly 
toward an illegal and unj us ti- 
ded war with Iraq. Desperate 
to stop the war, people all over 
the world were seeking creative 
ways to voice their opposition. 

Inspired by the recently 
organized New York group 
Theaters Against War, Sharron 
Bower and I, both of us ac- 

A publicity photo for a Lysistrata Project production in tOTS Or2f3.nizC(l 3.11 ill tC I'll 3.- 
London. Photo by Nicky Dunsire. . 

tional day of theatrical action 
centered around a famous ancient Greek anti-war comedy, 
Lysistrata. Written by the playwright Aristophanes, Lysistrata 
tells the fictitious story of the women of Greece ending the 
Peloponnesian War by refusing sex until the men quit fight- 
ing. Productions traditionally involve nudity on the part of 
the women and excessively large phalli on the priapically 
crippled men — conditions which make viewing the play a 
highly memorable experience. 

Over the course of a few days, Bower and I set up a web- 
site that served as an instruction manual for organizing a 
reading of the play. It contained downloadable logos, post- 
ers, fliers, a sample press release, a top-ten list of reasons 
for opposing the war, instructions for organizing a reading 
and a page listing readings by geographic area with contact 
information. We then sent an email to everyone we knew of- 
fering this reading as a fun, powerful means of opposing the 
impending war. We suggested people adapt the play to the 
needs of their own community, and feel free to do readings 
anywhere that suited them. 

Everyone we knew forwarded the email to everyone they 
knew, and we started getting phone calls and emails from 
all over the world, including one from a college student in 
Texas which read: 



330 


CASE: Lysistrata Project 


FINALLY! SOMETHING WE CAN DO! I’M SKIPPING 
CLASS TO GO ORGANIZE A READING IN THE 
QUAD. THANK YOU FOR THINKING OF THIS! 
PEACE, PEACE, PEACE, PEACE, PEACE PEACE 
PEACE PEACE PEACE PEACE PEACE!!!! 

LOVE, KATE 

Numerous playwrights offered their own translations of 
the play, which were posted on the website for free, and an 
educational team put together a penis-free version of the show 
for kids called No Hugs, No Kisses and a fifty-page study guide 
— also posted on the site. 

By March 3, the day of the event, we had 1,029 readings in 
fifty-nine countries on six continents (no Antarctica) and in 
all fifty states. The readings received widespread news cover- 
age in the U.S. and around the world. There were two star- 
studded readings in New York and LA, and smaller readings in 
living rooms, churches, parks, rain forest campsites, commu- 
nity theaters, trailer park diners, a Kurdish refugee camp, as 
well as at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens where the play is 
set. There were clandestine readings in China and Jerusalem, 
as well as in Northern Iraq — undertaken by the international 
press corps who had to keep it secret so they wouldn’t get bred. 

Lysistrata Project readings reached an estimated 200,000 
people and raised over $100,000 for peace-oriented charities. 


Lysistrata Project was one of the first virally organized 
simultaneous events to harness the power of the Internet to 
inspire and equip dispersed actions. It worked partly be- 
cause we made available an easy-to-use guide to make par- 
ticipation easy. It worked partly because the play is a comedy, 
so it was fun to do and fun to watch. It worked partly because 
sex sells. As playwright Ellen McLaughlin, who directed the 
main New York reading at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 
pointed out, “Nobody can resist an ancient Greek dick joke.” 
It worked partly because the play is in the public domain 
and could be freely adapted for the needs of each individual 
reading. It was also of a particular moment in time. There 
had been a ramping-up of protests happening already — in- 
cluding millions turning out all over the world on February 
15, 2003 — and there was a sense of hope and optimism that 
the power of the people might actually prevent the war. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

The social cure p. 264 
Action logic p. 208 


WHY IT WORKED 


CASE: Lysistrata Project 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Balance art and message p. 100 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Create levels of participation web 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Anyone can act p. 98 


The readings didn’t stop the war. Also, while the tactic of 
simultaneous events has frequently been replicated in the 
years since Lysistrata Project — most successfully by the envi- 
ronmental group 350.org — nobody has ever managed to do 
another day of theatrical action on such a huge scale. It did, 
however, inspire smaller simultaneous actions such as read- 
ings of Bury the Dead and My Name is Rachel Corrie. 


DISTRIBUTED ACTION: Lysistrata Project participants took great 
comfort and inspiration in knowing that they were part of a 
global day of action, and that there were people all over the 
world participating. 

The fact that the event was a mass distributed action also mul- 
tiplied the power of what each group was doing, so there was 
less pressure on local organizers to have the biggest possible 
event — private living room readings were just as valuable as 
star-studded extravaganzas. The cumulative power of the col- 
lective action also made adding readings easier, because gaps 
became more obvious, and people living in those gaps were 
driven to organize a reading. 

Local, national, and international media outlets were also far 
more inclined to cover the event because it was happening on 
such a large scale. 

MAKE IT FUNNY: By choosing a comedy about a sex strike as 
a form of protest, Lysistrata Project organizers made partici- 
pation fun for their performers and audience members and 
made the event irresistible to the media. 


CASE: Lysistrata Project 


TO THOSE WHO CALL US HYPOCRITES FOR USING CORPORATE RESOURCES IN OUR STRUGGLE-WE ARE IN 



AND THERE'S NO WAY OUT THAT DOESN'T GO THROUGH. AND, AFTER ALL, WE’VE PAID FOR THE VERY TEETH THAT CHEW US. 


— Occupy Regina 



Museum 


WHEN 

April 3, 1992 -February 28, 1993 

WHERE 

Baltimore 

PRACTITIONERS 

Fred Wilson 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum: An 
Installation. [New York, NY: Folio, 1994) 

Video: “A Change of Heart: Fred 
Wilson's Impact on Museums” 

http://vimeo.com/11838838 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Elisabeth Ginsberg 


334 


In 1992, a huge sign was hanging from the fagade of the 
Maryland Historical Society announcing that “another” his- 
tory was now being told inside. The sign referred to African- 
American artist Fred Wilson’s exhibition project “Mining the 
Museum,” which presented the museum’s collection in a new, 
critical light. 

Incorporated in 1844, the Maryland Historical Society 
was founded to collect, preserve, and study objects related to 
the state’s history. This mission included accounts of coloniza- 
tion, slavery and abolition, but the museum tended to present 
this history from a specific viewpoint, namely that of the its 
white male founding board. It was this worldview that Wilson 
aimed to “mine.” He did so simply by assembling the museum’s 
collection in a new and surprising way, deploying various 
satirical techniques, first and foremost irony. 



Wilson visually argues that historical representation is as manipulative as advertising. 

For instance, in the first room of the exhibit, the audience 
was confronted with a silver globe — an advertising industry 
award given at clubs in the first half of the century — bear- 
ing the single word “Truth.” The trophy was flanked by, on 
the one side, a trio of portrait busts of prominent white men 
and, on the other side, three empty black pedestals. The busts 
were of Napoleon, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson. None 
of these worthies had ever lived in Maryland; they exempli- 


CASE: Mining the Museum 


fied those deemed deserving of sculptural representation 
and subsequent museum acquisition. The empty busts were 
labeled Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Banneker, and Frederick 
Douglass, three important African-American Marylanders 
who were overlooked by the ostensibly “local” institution. 

“What they put on view says a lot about a museum, but 
what they don’t put on view says even more,” 1 Wilson said in 
an interview about his installations. He communicated this 
point by contrasting what is with what should be. By drawing at- 
tention to the overlooked black figures, his installment asked 
whose truth was on display at the Maryland Historical Society. 

The installation “Metalwork 1793-1880” was another way 
that Wilson reshuffled the museum’s collection to highlight 
the history of African Americans. The installation juxtaposed 
ornate silver pitchers, flacons, and teacups with a pair of iron 
slave shackles. Traditionally, the display of arts and craft is 
kept separate from the display of traumatic artifacts such as 
slave shackles. By displaying these artifacts side by side, Wil- 
son created an atmosphere of unease and made apparent the 
link between the two kinds of metal works: The production of 
the one was made possible by the subjugation enforced by the 
other. When the audience made this connection, Wilson suc- 
ceeded in creating awareness of the biases that often underlie 
historical exhibitions and, further, the way these biases shape 
the meaning we attach to what we are viewing. 


There have been other attempts to use satirical techniques 
to critique museum institutions from within. Often these 
have caused controversies due to misinterpretations and 
the difficulties inherent in the ambition to destabilize one’s 
own foundation. “Mining the Museum” worked because it 
was suggestive rather than didactic, provocative rather than 
moralizing. 


IDENTITY CORRECTION: Wilson s intervention was a correction of 
the museum’s identity in the sense that it made the underlying 
racism apparent. Using glass cases and neat labeling, Wilson’s 
installations mimicked the usual methods of museum display 
but with a twist so that a new voice or persona was created. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Cultural hegemony p. 250 
Alienation effect p. 210 
Anti-oppression p. 220 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


CASE: Mining the Museum 


335 


As he said it himself: “By bringing things out of storage and 
shifting things already on view, I believe I created a new public 
persona for the historical society.”" 

DETOURNEMENT/CULTURE JAMMING: Wilson appropriated the 
museum’s collection and reshuffled it so that it communicated 
a different message, almost antithetical to that of the original 
constellation. Titling his exhibition “Mining the Museum,” he 
sowed a three-way pun: excavating the collections to extract 
the covert presence of racial minorities; planting emotionally 
explosive historical material to raise consciousness; and, find- 
ing reflections of himself within the museum (as in “making it 
mine” — mine-ing). 



Wilson's installation “Metalwork 1793-1880." 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Reframe p. 16 8 
Use others' prejudices against them p. 192 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Seek common ground p. 120 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: Wilson communicated his critique through a 
strategic juxtaposition of the museum’s artifacts. The audience 
was left to draw the conclusions. For example, in an installation 
entitled “Modes of Transport,” Wilson exhibited an old baby 
carriage in which a Ku Klux Klan hood substituted the usual 
bedding. The baby carriage was placed next to a photograph 
of black nannies with white babies — their future employers. 
Again, Wilson did not make any explicit statements, but simply 
provided the audience with a strong visual statement about the 
persistence of racial hierarchies. The suggestion that children 
readily absorb their parents’ prejudices was clear. 


336 


CASE: Mining the Museum 



MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: One of the ways Wilson made the 
invisible visible was by rewriting the tags of the museum’s paint- 
ings and changing the lighting to re-direct viewers’ attention. 
Further, in a series of “talking paintings,” Wilson gave black 


child slaves voices by playing 
recordings asking such ques- 
tions as: “Who calms me when 
I’m afraid? Who washes my 
back?” or “Am I your friend? 
Am I your brother? Am I your 
pet?” By altering the lighting 
and adding an audio track, 
Wilson drew attention to peo- 
ple and groups who historically 
have been rendered invisible 
and mute. 


“What they put 
on view says a lot 
about a museum , 
but what they 
don’t put on view 
says even more.” 


HOPE IS A MUSCLE: In the final part of his exhibition, Wilson 
displayed the journal of Benjamin Banneker, a free, self-taught 
African-American who became a prominent mathematician, 
surveyor, and astronomer. Banneker was one of the figures 
absent from the exhibition’s first installation. In this way, the 
exhibition ended with a solution to the problem it pointed out 
in the beginning. After the indictment of institutionally codi- 
fied racism, Wilson offered a testament to those pioneers who 
had managed to resist oppression. 


1 Coco Fusco, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance," TOR: Journal of Performance Studies 
38, no. 1 [Spring 1994): 148. 

2 Ibid. 258 


CASE: Mining the Museum 


337 


® CASE STUDY: 

Modern-Day Slavery Museum 


WHEN 

2010-Present 

WHERE 

Exhibit has toured from 
Florida to Massachusetts 

PRACTITIONERS 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Student/Farmworker Alliance 
Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida 
Just Harvest USA 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Modern-Day Slavery Museum website 

http://ciw-online.org/museum/index.html 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 


338 


In December 2008, farm labor contractors Cesar and Geovanni 
Navarrete were each sentenced to twelve years in prison for 
their part in what U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy called “slavery, 
plain and simple.” According to the Justice Department, the 
employers “pleaded guilty to beating, threatening, restraining, 
and locking workers in trucks to force them to work as agricul- 
tural laborers... [They] were accused of paying the workers 
minimal wages and driving the workers into debt, while 
simultaneously threatening physical harm if the workers left 
their employment before their debts had been repaid to the 
Navarrete family.” 

Although shocking in its details, the Navarrete case was 
simply the latest link in a long, unbroken chain of exploita- 
tion — including forced labor — in Florida’s fields. It was 
the seventh farm labor operation to be prosecuted for servi- 
tude in the state in the past decade, cases involving well over 
1,000 workers and more than a dozen employers in total. The 
federal government has since initiated two additional pros- 
ecutions, bringing the total to nine as of 2011. 

Even setting aside forced labor, farm work in the U.S. still 
offers the worst combination of sub-poverty wages, dangerous, 
backbreaking working conditions, and lack of fundamental 
labor protections. In this context of structural poverty and 
powerlessness, extreme forms of abuse such as forced labor 
are able to take root and flourish. However these cases are 
reflective of the impunity and exploitation that is rampant 
throughout the agricultural sector. In other words, modern- 
day slavery does not take place in a vacuum, nor is it an inevi- 
table feature of our food system. 

To highlight these abuses and to identify their causes and 
solution, in 2010 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — a 
community-based farmworker organization — decided to 
create the Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum. The mo- 
bile museum consists of a cargo truck carefully outfitted as 
a replica of the trucks involved in the Navarrete case and a 
collection of displays on the history and evolution of slavery 
in Florida over the past four hundred years. The multime- 
dia exhibits were developed in consultation with workers who 
have escaped from forced labor operations, as well as leading 


CASE: Modern-Day Slavery Museum 


Related: 



The Florida Modern Slavery Museum is exhibited on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., June 2010. Photo by 
Fritz Myer 

academic authorities on slavery and labor history in Florida. 

With a team of farmworker and ally docents, the museum 
toured Florida intensively, visiting churches, schools, univer- 
sities and community centers for six weeks in the lead-up to 
the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ three-day Farmworker 
Freedom March in 2010. 

People’s reactions to the museum were so overwhelmingly 
positive and such a buzz was generated that the CIW later 
decided to tour outside Florida to cities throughout the South- 
east and Northeast, including a stop on the National Mall in 
Washington, D.C. In March 2011, former President Jimmy 
Carter visited the museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Approximate- 
ly 10,000 people have toured the museum since its creation. 


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers closely links education 
and action in its work. The last panel of the museum high- 
lighted the ongoing Campaign for Fair Food as a systemic 
solution to the problem of farmworker exploitation. And 
since the Florida tour occurred during the lead-up to a major 
mobilization, docents were able to extend countless personal 
invitations for museum-goers (i.e., grocery shoppers) to join 
the three-day march to the corporate headquarters of Publix 
Super Markets, one of the CIW’s main campaign targets. 
The museum was both an educational and an organizing 


CASE: Modern-Day Slavery Museum 


CASE STUDIES 

Taco Bell boycott p. 372 


WHY IT WORKED 


tool, reminding attendees of their own capacity for social 
change and the indispensable role they could play alongside 
farmworkers in transforming the food system. 



A man tours the inside of the box truck that houses the Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum. Photo by Fritz Myer 


KEY TACTIC ART INTERVENTION: The museum was not a “work of art” in 
used the conventional sense of the term, but it did transform both 
the public spaces it inhabited and the people who viewed it. 
Through a host of different media and creative displays — the 
highlight of which was the careful re-creation of the Naverrete 
operation inside the truck itself — the museum was able to 
reach viewers at a visceral level. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Reframe p. 1 68 


SHOW, DON’T TELL: It is often difficult for people to accept that 
modern-day slavery is a systemic problem facing U.S. agricul- 
ture. The thought that the tomato topping your hamburger or 
tossed in your salad may have been picked by a slave — and was 
certainly picked by someone receiving very low wages for very 
difficult work — can trigger a denial impulse that is difficult 
to break through. But the museum, by using actual historical 
artifacts, presented a tight and irrefutable indictment of the 
status quo that was able to pierce this veil and open peoples’ 
minds to dialogue and possibly collective action. 


340 


CASE: Modern-Day Slavery Museum 



TAKE THE SHOW ON THE ROAD: Instead of waiting for people to 
come to Immokalee to visit the museum, the CIW brought 
the museum to the people. With the museum as Exhibit A 
of an old-fashioned speaking tour, the museum crew toured 
across Florida and the Eastern U.S., often parking the 
exhibit right in the center of town. There’s nothing like a 
museum on wheels to draw people’s attention, not to men- 
tion a museum on wheels that addresses such a pressing and 
controversial topic as modern-day slavery. It was an effective 
conversation starter. 

TEAM UP WITH EXPERT ADVISERS: A key factor that lent the 
museum credibility was the support garnered for the project 
from leading academic authorities on modern-day slavery and 
Florida’s labor history. Several academics had the opportunity 
to offer crucial feedback on organizers’ draft research brief. 
Others contributed “blurbs” similar to the advance praise you 
might read on the back of a book jacket, which were included 
in the museum booklet (which was itself a polished version of 
the research brief) so that attendees would know that the mu- 
seum’s content had been independently vetted. 


CASE: Modern-Day Slavery Museum 


341 



WHEN 

2009 

WHERE 

Denmark 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Nihilist Democratic Party 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

NDP website 

http://www.nihilistisk-folkeparti.dk/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Simon Roel 
Elisabeth Ginsberg 


The Nihilist Democratic Party (NDP) was founded by a group 
of philosophy graduates and students who decided to run for 
public office on a nihilist platform. Fed up with the state of 
Danish politics, the students 
constructed an absurd politi- 
cal position, ironically claim- 
ing that the nihilism within 
religion and science had spread 
into the political sphere: “All 
Danes are nihilists. We have 
no values except our flat- 
screen TVs. Holding other 
values is considered religious 
extremism. The Nihilist Dem- 
ocratic Party, therefore, is 
the answer to the democratic 
deficit that we have witnessed 
up until now,” the party’s 
chairman and candidate for 
mayor of Copenhagen, Mads 
Vestergaard, explained in 
one of the NDP’s videos. 

The party ran a full campaign in the 2009 local elections, 
promising such things as psychedelic ally painted subway tun- 
nels (why should a subway ride be boring?), tax exemption on 
drugs and alcohol (the death rate stays at 100% anyway, so we 
might as well have some fun) , and the production of a “cute- 
ness canon” that would list all animals deemed cute enough 
for state-guaranteed protection and care — a reference to a 
heated debate about the government’s production of a “na- 
tional culture canon” and to the fact that the extreme right 
wing in Denmark is obsessed with the needs of animals while 
comfortably ignoring those of immigrants. 

The NDP’s platform ironically addressed a number of di- 
visive issues. For example, it promoted an aggressive interna- 
tional security policy — not to defend Danish democracy, but 
to protect the Danes from people with “actual values” (such as 
Muslims) . They were opposed to work per se as it aids the gov- 
ernment in hiding “the metaphysical fact that life is pointless 


“ The NDP’s 
campaign 
was intended 
to galvanize 
opposition to the 
‘empty promises, 
cleavage, and 
emotional porn’ 
that permeate 
contemporary 
politics.” 


342 


CASE: The Nihilist Democratic Party 


and completely void of meaning.” And they strongly opposed 
any set of cultural policies, considering culture and art an 
unwarranted escape from a meaningless existence. Only 
sports should be funded as they accurately represent the 
meaninglessness of life, one team or player fighting another 
for the sake of pointless scores. 

The campaign provoked both delight and skepticism. 
Since the NDP always stayed in character and never admitted 
to being a hoax, some people, including noted intellectuals, 
criticized the project on its own terms. For most people, 
though, the party simply spiced up an otherwise predictable 
election period. On the popular talk show “Good morning 
Denmark,” the NDP won a poll based on the viewers’ text- 
messaged votes. Yet in the elections, NDP collected “only” 
around 4,500 votes (out of 2.8 million). Not enough to get 
into office — but enough to get into the spotlight. Thus, activ- 
ists managed to deliver a critique of a political sphere riddled 
with empty pledges and spin much more effectively than had 
they been writing op-ed articles or otherwise made use of 
regular channels for citizens to present their views. 


By officially forming a political party and running for elec- 
tions — complete with banners, posters, flyers, a website, a 
Facebook page, public speeches, and several candidates in 
each key policy area — the NDP made it virtually impossible 
to ignore their candidacy. Because NDP candidates never 
broke character, voters were kept in a state of confusion. This 
provoked discussions about the soundness of the NDP’s argu- 
ments and positions. Indirectly, these discussions invited peo- 
ple to see the proper political parties in a new, critical light. 


ELECTORAL GUERRILLA THEATER: The NDP’s campaign was in- 
tended to galvanize opposition to the “empty promises, cleavage, 
and emotional porn” that permeate contemporary politics. 
Making fun of cynical campaign promises, their main slogans 
were “Everything is meaningless anyway - waste your vote on us” 
and “Politics is shit, and so is the NDP, but at least we admit it.” 
Exaggerating already existing tendencies — e.g., the ten- 
dency to see Muslim immigration as a threat to Danish culture 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 
The propaganda model p. 2 56 
Alienation effect p. 210 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Identity correction p. 60 
Hoax p. 54 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 


CASE: The Nihilist Democratic Party 


343 


or to give priority to the well-being of animals over that of 
human beings — the NDP called attention to the absurdity of 
some of the serious campaign pledges. 

The NDP wanted Danes to see themselves for what politi- 
cians make them out to be: materialists with no higher values 
beyond what’s compatible with an easy, mediocre life demand- 
ing few personal sacrifices. Pledges such as the state protec- 
tion of cute pets financed by a total elimination of foreign aid 
were intended to expose as false the (self) image of Danes as 
an idealistic people. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
The real action is your 
target's reaction web 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Use absurdity to undermine 
the aura of authority web 
Anyone can act p. 98 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Seek common ground p. 120 


DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR THEM: Nearly all major Danish news- 
papers wrote about the new party promoting no values, it 
being too good a story not to feature. In addition, chairman 
Mads Vestergaard, visually memorable for his combination 
of mohawk and business suit, made several appearances on 
prime-time talk shows, often accusing his political opponents 
of being “closet nihilists.” Both the idea and the execution of 
a “Nihilist Democratic Party” turned out to be fun enough 
to make journalists laugh, which, in turn, resulted in a good 
amount of coverage. 

MAKE IT FUNNY: Basing their campaign on pledges such as 
“children and young people who spend eight hours a day 
playing World of Warcraft will be released from all manda- 
tory education,” it was obvious that the NDP’s political to-do 
list, if carried out, would cripple society. The NDP had no 
intention of making good on these pledges if elected (which 
they knew wouldn’t happen). Although making sincere, crit- 
ical statements about Danish politics, the NDP didn’t give 
into the temptation of using the media attention to propel a 
serious political career. 


344 


CASE: The Nihilist Democratic Party 



Psychedelic colors in the metro. Stop the gray brainwashing! 


CASE: The Nihilist Democratic Party 


345 



WHEN 

October, 2009 

WHERE 

Washington, D.C. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Agit-Pop 

Billionaires for Wealthcare 
Healthcare for America Now (HCAN) 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “Public Option Annie" 

http://trb.la/zy2NxP 

Video: “The Public Options Rising 
Tide," Rachel M addow Show, 
MSNBC, October 23, 2009 

http://trb.la/xE7XaK 

Video: “Protesters Sing their 
Satire, " CNN, October 26, 2009 

http://trb.la/x66rDw 

Video: “Public Option Limited," Jon 
Stewart, October 28, 2009 

http://trb.la/yi4Nzy 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


By the fall of 2009, with Sarah Palin tweeting about “death 
panels” and town hall meetings overrun by angry teabag- 
gers up in arms (literally) about a supposed “government 
takeover of healthcare,” progressives had officially lost con- 
trol of the healthcare debate. Could a daring creative action 
that brought the fight directly to the insurance industry help 
reframe the conversation and shift momentum back toward 
reform? One group of activists centered around a small “sub- 
vertising” agency called Agit-Pop, certainly thought so. 

Working closely with the main 
healthcare reform coalition, we 
snuck a handful of professional 
singers and stealth videographers 
into a high-profile gathering of 
insurance industry lobbyists. 

With fake name tags and busi- 
ness suits, we blended in with 
the crowd and, just as the closing 
keynote began, let loose with 
a “guerrilla musical” complete 
with soloists, chorus and comic 
asides. Dubbed “Public Option 
Annie,” and set to the tune of 
Annie’s “Tomorrow,” it by turn 
surprised, charmed and irritated the assembled lobbyists 
until security escorted everyone out. Within two hours we had 
turned the footage and audio into a polished viral video, loaded 
it onto YouTube and shopped it around to media outlets. 

Rachel Maddow ran a glowing segment on it that same 
night, calling it “the single most unexpected turn of events 
yet in the fight over health reform.” It was then picked up 
by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and numerous local TV stations. The 
blogosphere lit up, reform supporters cheered, and Jon Stew- 
art picked up the story, mocking the “terrible” singing for 
blowing out his eardrums. 

That same week the public option made it into the Senate 
bill. Of course, it later got struck from the final legislation. 
“Tomorrow,” indeed! 


“Public Option 
Annie shows what 
a few determined 
pranksters can do 
when they combine 
moxie, military 
precision , fake 
IDs and good old 
musical theater.” 


346 


CASE: Public Option Annie 


Related: 


Here’s what Variety magazine had to say about the prank: 

The stunt was worthy of something dreamed up by a 
Hollywood press agent of yesteryear: A group of health 
reform activists quietly infiltrated a D.C. meeting of 
health insurance executives and, one by one, added 
their voices to a growing chorus of a satirical version 
of “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” The antics, from the 
group Billionaires for Wealthcare, was a bit of show- 
manship in a health care debate that has until only 
recently been scarce in showbiz moments. 

And as one YouTube user commented: 

The right sends armed, angry and misinformed people 
to disrupt town halls. The left invades with clever send 
ups. Charm, wit and intelligence will eventually carry 
the day. 


Public Option Annie shows what a few determined prank- 
sters can do when they combine moxie, military precision, 
fake IDs and good old musical theater. It’s also a great ex- 
ample of the synergies possible when an action has both a 
“real world” and online dimension. While the action itself 
was a surgical strike inside the belly of the insurance indus- 
try beast, the “stickiness” of the presentation ensured that 
millions of Americans witnessed it on the tubes. 


GUERRILLA MUSICAL: Who doesn’t love a good song and dance 
number? And how much more exciting when the musical 
breaks out unexpectedly, right next to you, in the middle of 
an otherwise boring day? And, if on top of that, this “guer- 
rilla musical” is actually singing truth to power behind enemy 
lines, all the while smiling and staying in key? Those insur- 
ance industry lobbyists never had a chance. 

MEDIA-JACKING: In the theater proper there’s a literal stage, but 
in the (political) world at large, a stage is wherever the action 
is, whether that’s Tiananmen Square or inside an insurance 


THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Infiltration p. 64 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Direct action p. 32 


CASE: Public Option Annie 


347 


industry conference. By inserting your action into a contested 
space, you turn it into a stage. By challenging the powers that 
rule that space, you create the kind of real-world, conflict- 
laced drama that can powerfully tell your story — and, if pack- 
aged right, go viral. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 
Leverage the celebrity of your target web 
Plan your action with 
military precision web 
The real action is your 
target's reaction web 


DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FORTHEM: You cannot count on the main- 
stream media to tell your story for you — and in our age of cell 
phone cams, YouTube and instant blogging, you don’t have to. 
The “Annie” team snuck more videographers (six) into the 
conference than they did singers (five) . The whole action was 
orchestrated for expressive impact, scripted, rehearsed and 
performed for the camera. Our own cameras. 

BALANCE ART AND MESSAGE: There’s a tendency on the Left to 
think that if intentions are good, art doesn’t have to be. This 
is rarely true. If your art is good, people will pay more atten- 
tion to what you’re trying to say. Even people who disagree 
with your views will still respect your effort because you 
showed them the respect of making as strong and beautiful 
an artwork as possible. The lead “Annie” soloist was a profes- 
sionally trained opera singer with six years at the Met. The 
“Annie” team went through four scripts till they hit on the 
right one, and then rehearsed it as intensely as time would 
allow. That amount of preparation isn’t always possible but, 
in general, if you take your art seriously, your audience is 
more likely to take your ideas seriously. 


348 


CASE: Public Option Annie 


POLITICS 


IS THAT 

DIMENSION 

OF SOCIAL LIFE 
IN WHICH THINGS 
BECOME 

TRUE 


IF ENOUGH PEOPLE 
BELIEVE THEM 




CASE STUDY: 


WHEN 

1995-2000 

WHERE 

London and 
around the world 

PRACTITIONERS 

Reclaim the Streets 
Situationist International 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Hamm, Marion. “Reclaim the Streets: 
Global Protest, Local Space" 
Republicart. May, 2002. 

Mckay, George (edj. DIY Culture: 
Party and Protest in Nineties Britain. 
London & New York: Verso, 1998. 

Klein, Naomi. No Logo:Taking Aim 
at the Brand Bullies. 
New York: Picador, 2000. 

Notes From Nowhere [edj, We Are 
Everywhere: The Irresistible 
Rise of Global Anticapitalism. 
London & New York: Verso, 2003. 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Jordan 


350 


Reclaim the Streets (RTS) began as creative activist group 
in London, but its tactics, blending party and protest, soon 
spread around the world. Merging the direct action of Brit- 
ain’s anti-road building movement and the carnivalesque na- 
ture of the counter-cultural rave scene, RTS became a catalyst 
for the global anti-capitalist movements of the late ’90s. 

RTS saw the streets as the urban equivalent of the commons 
see THEORY: The commons, in need of reclaiming from the 
enclosures of the car and commerce and transformed into truly 
public places to be enjoyed by all. RTS became most known for 
its street parties, which served not only as a protest vehicle against 
car culture but also as a prehgurative vision of what city streets 
could be in a system that prioritized people over profit and ecol- 
ogy over the economy see TACTIC: Prefigurative intervention. 

The first street party took place in North London in May 
1995. Using rave culture tactics, the location was kept secret 
until the last moment, and participants were led from a public 
meeting point through the subway to emerge at the party site 
before the police had time to gather forces. 

The event began with two cars crashing into each other. 
The drivers jumped out in theatrical road rage and began to 
destroy each other’s vehicles with hammers. Meanwhile, 500 
people emerged from the subway station into the traffic-free 
street that the crashed cars had blocked, and started the par- 
ty, dancing, sharing free food and meeting new friends. 

From 1995-98, street parties evolved in complexity and 
scale. Creative techniques ranged from tons of sand dumped 
in the road to create a sand box, to tripods made from scaf- 
folding erected in the middle of the street with someone sit- 
ting on top. These “intelligent” barricades blocked the road 
from cars and yet opened it for pedestrians. 

In the summer of 1996, 8,000 participants took over a 
motorway while huge carnival figures with hooped skirts 
moved amongst them. Underneath the skirts, hidden from 
view, activists drilled into the tarmac with jack hammers and 
planting saplings into the motorway. This story took on the 
power of a myth as it circulated on the early threads of the 
world wide web. It even inspired striking longshoremen from 
Liverpool to make common cause with RTS, proof that imag- 


CASE: Reclaim the Streets 


ination can break down barri- 
ers of class and political/ cul- 
tural difference. 

The RTS meme soon spread 
across the UK and the Western 
world. A global street party in 
seventy cities occurred in May 
1998, coinciding with the G8 
summit. A year later, a “Car- 
nival Against Capital” on June 
18th, coordinated by RTS and the People’s Global Action net- 
work, saw simultaneous actions in financial districts across the 
world, from Nigeria to Uruguay, Seoul to Melbourne, Belarus 
to Dhaka. Six months after that, a carnivalesque mass street 
action shut down the WTO in Seattle, an event that proved to 
be the coming-out party for the anti-globalization movement. 


“Much political 
action is 
predictable and 
boring; street 
parties are quite 
the opposite ” 


RTS was successful because it did not look or feel like a typi- 
cal protest. Much political action is predictable and boring; 
street parties are quite the opposite. All sorts of people got 
involved because they knew it would be both a transgressive 
political adventure and a brilliant party. RTS’s political au- 
dacity — “let’s hold a mass carnival in the financial district 
or a rave on a motorway” — ignited hope, and hope is the 
catalyst for the formation of new movements. Another key 
reason for its popularity was that it involved a simple, adapt- 
able formula: disseminate an invitation over the still-young 
Internet, get a sound system and occupy a street. Its cre- 
ativity came from its diversity — from artists to anarchists, 
unionists to ecologists, ravers to cyclists — all came together 
to experiment with new forms of mass action. 


CARNIVAL-PROTEST: With its music, wild costumes, liberated 
bodies, color and revelry, RTS created rebel carnivals. Unlike 
regular carnivals and parades, RTS never asked for permis- 
sion, leaving the event open to the possible and impossible, 
turning the world on its head in true carnival spirit. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Memes p. 242 

Society of the Spectacle p. 266 
Temporary Autonomous 
Zone [TAZ] p. 270 

CASE 

Streets into gardens p. 368 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct action p. 32 
Mass street action p. 68 
Flash mob p. 46 


CASE: Reclaim the Streets 


351 



Reclaim the Streets NYC logo. 


352 


CASE: Reclaim the Streets 


HOPE ISA MUSCLE: While street parties were often accompanied 
by written propaganda explaining the ideas and theories be- 
hind them, the thing that had the greatest impact was not the 
theory that went into the events but the hope that emerged. 
The hope that unfurled from these events not only catalysed 
the anti-globalization movement, but many of those involved 
went on to work in various global justice movement groups 
such as Genetic Engineering Network, the Wombles, Dissent!, 
the Rising Tide Network, the Clandestine Insurgent Clown 
Army, the Climate Camp and the Occupy movement. 

NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH A DRUM CIRCLE: Whilst the surprise 
location of the street parties was not something that could 
be public knowledge before the event, as the police would 
have shut them down, the events themselves were very par- 
ticipatory. RTS was an open invitation for people to come 
to the street party with whatever creative ideas they wanted. 
Unlike marches with set themes and slogans, street parties 
were frames for collective spontaneity. Even if you did not 
bring your own costume, giant prop or free feast, then sim- 
ply the act of dancing with thousands of others on a road 
meant that you were an active participant rather than spec- 
tator or consumer. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Put your target in a 

decision dilemma p. 166 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

Create levels of participation web 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Take risks, but take care p. 182 

Change attitudes by 

transforming space web 


CASE: Reclaim the Street s 


353 


CASE STUDY: 

le salt march 


WHEN 

1930 

WHERE 

Gujarat, India 

EPIGRAPH 

“Gandhi’s greatness lay 
in doing what everyone 
could do but doesn’t.” 

Louis Fischer, Gandhi's biographer 1 

PRACTITIONERS 

Gandhi 

Indian independence movement 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Nonviolent Conflict, “The Indian 
Independence Struggle (1930-1931]" 

http://trb.la/yPdPOu 

Video: “Salt March ” 

http://trb.la/w6WuLH 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Nadine Bloch 


Any collection of creative actions worth its salt would include 
a reference to Gandhi’s famous march — and the conversa- 
tion would be flavored with strategic and practical lessons still 
resonant today. 

In 1930, the Indian National Congress adopted satyagraha 
(essentially, nonviolent protest) as their main tactic in their 
campaign for independence. Mahatma Gandhi was appoint- 
ed to develop a plan of action; he proposed marching to the 
sea to make salt in defiance of the Salt Act of 1882- Violation 
of the Salt Act, which made it illegal for anyone to collect or 
produce salt except for authorized British nationals, did not 
immediately catch the imagination of the delegates, and was 
reportedly met with some laughter in the Congress. The Raj 
(as the British empire in India was known) did not take this 
idea as much of a threat either. Viceroy Lord Irwin actually 
wrote back to London to report, “At present the prospect of a 
salt campaign does not keep me awake at night.” 2 

This would soon change, however, as the salt march, which 
began with about eighty men, quickly gathered supporters 
on its way to the Indian Ocean. Gandhi framed the 240-mile 
march from his ashram to the sea within a traditional cultural 
practice known as the padyatra (a long spiritual march). Not 
only did this help make the whole program more understand- 
able to the Indian public, it opened up the possibility to do 
outreach, gather more supporters, educate and provide train- 
ing, and work the national and international press. Advance 
teams worked the route and followers slept out in the open in 
each town to be more accessible. 

When he and more than 12,000 supporters finally reached 
the sea, the day chosen to make salt was the ten-year anniversary 
of the first round of national resistance actions. The British were 
slow to react at first, allowing more Indians to join in the pro- 
test. As salt making spread, and the British responded brutally, 
the empire’s facade of civility slipped and then fell away entirely. 


WHY IT WORKED 


The salt march had profound cultural resonance for Indians 
across lines of caste and class because Gandhi did his strate- 
gic planning homework by travelling (always third class) all 


CASE: The salt march 


over India for a year. In the process of talking the pulse of 
the country, he recognized that in order to attract unified 
masses across caste and religious lines, the campaign to win 
something as ethereal as independence needed to be linked 
to a tangible manifestation of that demand. The more it af- 
fected or appealed to the poor and lower classes, and the 
greater the benehtfor the majority of Indians, the greater the 
chance of expanding the movement, and therefore winning. 

When people could hold the physical distillation of their 
labor — salt — in their hands, the esoteric, long-term goal 
of independence became concrete and immediate. This was 
action design at its most brilliant. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Pillars of support p. 248 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 


TREK: The act of marching and the culminating act of making 
salt by the sea’s edge, while seemingly simple, actually offered 
the masses a chance to act courageously through both coor- 


dinated and dispersed action. 
As the march attracted more 
adherents, and as the move- 
ment grew, so the pillars of the 
empire’s power see THEORY: 
Pillars of support were seriously 
undermined. The salt march 
set the stage for India’s eventu- 
al independence as Indians and 
Brits alike realized that rule 
was not practicable without the 
consent of the governed. That 
consent had dissolved into the sea. 


“As saltmaking 
spread, and the 
British responded 
brutally, the 
empire’s facade 
of civility slipped 
and then fell 
away entirely 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Strategic nonviolence p. 88 
Direct action p. 32 
Distributed action p. 36 


PREFIGURATIVE INTERVENTION: Making salt married an im- 
provement in quality of life to political aspirations for indepen- 
dence, and provided a pattern for “constructive work” that was 
the backbone of a myriad of Indian resistance efforts, which 
included advocacy of homespun cloth, schools and gardens. 


1 Life Positive, “Mahatma Gandhi - A Living Sermon,” by Tom Weber. 
http://www.lifepositive.com/spirit/masters/mohatma-gandhi/dandi-march.asp 

2 Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall, A Force More Powerful (New York, NY: Palgrave, 200], 84 

3 Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall, A Force More Powerful (New York, NY: Palgrave, 200], 71 


CASE: The salt march 


355 



Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. 


356 


CASE: The salt march 


In fact, the entire march was set up to prefigure an alternative 
way of life and social structure that modeled an ideal (and 
economically self-reliant) Indian society and prepared Indians 
to assume political leadership. 


PUT YOUR TARGET IN A DECISION DILEMMA: The public defiance 
of the salt march put the empire in a classic double bind: Each 
salt maker arrested would become a martyr for the movement 
and expose the brutal hand of the regime. Of course, by doing 
nothing, they also gave space for the movement to grow, and 
even worse, for onlookers to think that the English had either 
lost the will or the ability to control the situation. 

CHOOSE YOUR TARGET WISELY: Challenging the British Salt Tax 
perfectly embodied the injustice of the British rule. The bur- 
den of this regressive tax fell disproportionately on those 
who could least afford it. It also provided a way for anyone 
with access to seawater — upper class or untouchable, Hindu 
or Muslim — to participate. Outreach and education events 
were used throughout the march to broaden its reach. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Use the power of ritual p. 198 
If protest is made illegal, make 
daily life a protest p. 138 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Create levels of participation web 
Reframe p. 168 

When the people are with you, act web 
Do your research web 


CASE: The salt march 


357 


jAk CASE STUDY: 

w Santa Claus Army 


WHEN In the lead-up to Christmas 1974, an army of about seventy 
ig 74 Santa Clauses, male and female, paraded through the city of 
Copenhagen, singing carols, handing out sweets and hot choc- 
olate, and asking everyone what they wanted for Christmas. 

Denmark 


PRACTITIONERS 

Solvognen 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Video: “Julemandshseren” [Danish 
documentary on the Santa Claus 
Army, English subtitles) 

http://trb.la/zpgVWF 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Elisabeth Ginsberg 



Members of the Santa Claus Army giving away books they just took off the shelves. Photos such as the one above, 
showing the Danish police harassing the Santas for being “too generous," circulated widely in the 1970s. 

After spending a few days cementing the good image of 
good old Santa Claus, their generosity became increasingly 
radical. Among other things, the Santas climbed a barbed 
wire fence surrounding the recently shuttered General Motors 
assembly plant with the purpose of giving jobs back to “their 
rightful owners.” 

The week-long performance reached its crescendo inside 
one of Copenhagen’s biggest department stores when the San- 
tas started handing out presents to customers directly off the 
shelves. Before too long, security guards and shop assistants 
interrupted the magic, desperately tearing the presents out of 
people’s hands. The police soon showed up and escorted the 
Santa Clauses out onto the street, where they were roughed up 
and thrown into paddy wagons in spite of the fact that it wasn’t 
clear that a criminal act had been committed, except perhaps on 
the part of customers who took home the presents without paying. 

The performance exposed the radical implications of the 


358 


CASE: Santa Claus Army 



myth of Santa Claus’ boundless generosity, demonstrating 
that true generosity is impossible within the narrow terms of 
capitalist society. With widely distributed photos of Santa Claus 
getting beaten for being too generous, the action was a hit. 

The people behind Santa’s beards were the Danish theater 
collective Solvognen (“The Sun Chariot,” an allusion to Norse 
mythology). During the 1970s, the collective performed many 
large-scale actions intended to make bourgeois Danish society 
“act itself out as theater.” 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 
Action logic p. 208 
The commons p. 220 


Solvognen’s spectacles were powerful, among other reasons WHY IT WORKED 

because they appropriated images from popular culture 

and ascribed these images a new meaning: Father Christmas 

handing out gifts to children became a critique of hypocrisy 

in consumerist society. The well-known imagery drew the 

audience quickly into the performances and, further, equipped 

them with a key to interpret what was going on. 


GUERILLA THEATER: Most of Solvognen’s actions were surprise 
performances in unlikely public spaces to an unsuspecting au- 
dience. Through performances that were playful, bold and easy 
to understand, Solvognen managed to spread its political ideas 
beyond the circle of true believers: most Danes knew about 
Solvognen and its activities. Legend has it that people even 
started seeing them when they weren’t there: at a public view- 
ing of an American F-16 jet fighter, three real security guards 
were arrested on suspicion of being members of Solvognen! 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Identity correction p. 60 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Hoax p. 54 
Direct action p. 32 


THE REAL ACTION IS YOUR TARGET’S REACTION: The performers 
made it difficult for the authorities not to become part of the 
theater. Doing their job, the police were obligated to intervene. 
Had the police for some reason ignored the performers, the 
theater would have been incomplete. Hence, the success of the 
performance was dependent on the actions of the target. 

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE POLICE (UNLESS IT IS FUNNY NOT TO): 

Solvognen’s interaction with the police was highly strategic. Always 
staying in character even in the midst of violent confrontation 
with the police, the performers created priceless photo ops. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Kill them with kindness p. 140 

Do the media's work for them p. 124 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

Escalate strategically p. 134 

Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 

Use your radical fringe to slide 

the Overton window p. 200 


CASE: Santa Claus Army 


359 



WHEN 

2006 -present 

WHERE 

Various public locations 
across the UK and Europe 

EPIGRAPH 

“The gift must travel.” 

-Anonymous 

PRACTITIONERS 

Rajni Shah 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Small gifts, Rajni Shah 

http://trb. la/wOUh8ws 

Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and 
Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. 
W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 

“Everything for Everyone, Nothing for 
Ourselves" by the Lab of Insurrectionary 
Imagination 

http://labofli.net/experiments/psi 

“Burning with Desire: At Black Rock City, 
it is better to be awesome than rich." 
Walrus Blog, September 13, 2010. 

http://trb.la/zkdrr 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Rajni Shah 


360 


Small gifts is a series of interventions that introduces new spac- 
es for conversation and generosity within shopping centers. 
The series was conceived as a way of presenting concepts of 
radical generosity to people who might otherwise not think of 
themselves as political. 

Some of the questions that this series addressed include: 

• What would our world look like if we exchanged gifts rather 
than money? 

• What is the value in speaking to strangers? 

• What if we focused on giving as much as we can rather 
than as little? 

n n x |. _ 

One particular interven- 
tion, called “give what you can, 
take what you need,” invites 
passersby to share resources, 
cultivating the recognition 
that everyone might have 
something useful to bring to 
the table. 

The intervention takes place 
in a busy shopping center, 
where three artists (Rajni Shah 
and two other collaborators 
including, at various times, 

Lucille Acevedo-Jones, Lucy 
Cash, Sheila Ghelani and liana 
Mitchell) set up a large dining 
table and chairs and prepare 
one hundred tiny envelopes, each containing a one-pound 
coin (US$1.50), a question to serve as a conversation starter, 
and an instruction to use the pound as inspiration to make, 
buy or find something to bring back to the table. 

Passersby are approached by the artists and invited to take 
part in the intervention by accepting the gift contained with- 
in the small envelope. On acceptance of the envelope, they 
become part of the conversation, and decide for themselves 
whether or how they will spend the pound, and whether they 


because we 
interventions don’t 
ask participants 
to assume any 
particular 
political position, 
they involve a 
much broader 
range of people 
than other, more 
targeted actions.” 


CASE: Small gifts 


will return to the table. If they do return with something to 
offer, they are invited to use their conversation-starter ques- 
tion to meet new people, and can partake of whatever is on 
the table at that time. 

This intervention is typical of the small gifts series in that 
it asks the participant to determine what he/she takes from 
the experience, guided only by a series of simple conversa- 
tion starters and whatever is being shared on the table. Stated 
outcomes included a renewal of faith in other people and the 
formation of community among strangers. In addition to the 
people who return to the table, everyone who takes an en- 
velope then has to decide what to do with their pound coin, 
provoking discussion about generosity, value and ownership. 


Because the interventions don’t ask participants to assume 
any particular political position, they involve a much broader 
range of people than other, more targeted actions. The par- 
ticipatory, conversation-sparking nature of the work allowed 
for a deeper connection with the principles of generosity 
and gift economy, and actively encouraged strangers to 
connect with one another. 

This type of intervention only worked within a busy environ- 
ment and required a lot of initiative and attention to detail. 
In the example described, there were always three people 
“hosting” and constantly engaging in unique conversations 
with passersby. 


HAPPENING: This is an example of a gentle happening that 
can take on a life of its own. When the artists did this project 
in Manchester, they left the party in progress, and allowed 
conversations to continue without them. It felt important that 
the public had taken ownership of the concept also see PRIN- 
CIPLE: Simple rules can lead to grand results. 


KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS: The beauty of this kind of gentle, 
open intervention, which uses gift giving to engage with peo- 
ple, is that it attracts people who are not usually drawn to 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Temporary Autonomous Zone p. 270 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
The commons p. 220 
Capitalism p. 216 


WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


CASE: Small gifts 


361 



‘Give what you can, take what you need' gift envelope with pound coin. Photo provided by artist. 



“Give what you can, take what you need” in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, with artists Sheila Ghelani, liana Mitchell 
and Rajni Shah. Photo provided by artist. 


362 


CASE: Small gifts 



OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 


either “arty” or “political” interventions. Small gifts allowed 
the artists to create spaces for genuine conversation and then 
let those conversations lead where they may. It also allowed for 
new relationships to develop across social divides — a deeply 
political but almost entirely non-confrontational action. 


Simple rules con have grand results p. 1 76 

Show, don't tell p. 174 

Make new folks welcome p. 150 


BALANCE ART AND MESSAGE: Small gifts aimed to bring a sense 
of trust and beauty into the otherwise manipulative and fully 
commodified world of shopping centers. The artist-origina- 
tors spent a lot of time preparing their materials, so that the 
gifts they were handing out would feel like real gifts and not 
easily be dismissed. By beautifully handcrafting their initial 
gifts, the artists invited the same care and attention to detail 
from passersby. 


BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE: This action came from the 
artist’s own sadness that most radical works of art only create 
a greater divide between those who already believe in a cause 
and those who don’t — and a realization that she herself was 
afraid of speaking to strangers. 


KNOW YOUR CULTURAL TERRAIN: Choosing to site the interven- 
tions in shopping centers only added to the message: operating 
within a hub of commercialism, the ideas of gift exchange 
and simple generosity seemed all the more radical and trans- 
gressive. 


CASE: Small gifts 


363 



WHEN 

June 2009-present 

WHERE 

Global 

PRACTITIONERS 

Palestinian BDS [Boycott, 
Divestment & Sanctions] campaign 
Palestinian civil society 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Stolen Beauty campaign 

www.stolenbeauty.com 

Boycott Soda Stream 

www.codepink.org/boycottsodastream 

Boycott, Divestment & 
Sanctions campaign 

www.bdsmovement.net 

VIDEO: BDS Brides Take LA 

http://trb.la/Axwl82 

VIDEO: CODEPINK Goes to Cosmoprof 

http://trb.la/yXz9sz 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Kristen Ess Schurr 


364 


Beauty boycott campaign 

A group of American and Israeli women enter the Ahava 
cosmetics shop in the Tel Aviv Hilton. Sporting bikinis, they 
smear mud on their bodies, scrawling the words “Stolen 
Beauty” and “No Love in Ahava.” Questions are asked, a dia- 
logue begins. A few weeks later at a “Tel Aviv Beach Party” 
in New York, another group of women in bikinis conveys the 
same messages. 

These actions were just the 
beginning of a multi-pronged 
international campaign against 
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, 
an Israeli company located in 
an illegal settlement in the Oc- 
cupied West Bank. The message 
is in the mud: there is nothing 
beautiful about occupation. 

Stolen Beauty seeks to edu- 
cate consumers, store managers, 

CEOs, and the general public about Ahava’s illegal practices. 
Our tactics range from guerrilla theater to online culture jam- 
ming. We target Ahava — its location in an illegal settlement, 
its fraudulent labeling, and its illegal pillaging of mud from 
the shores of occupied lands — as a poster child of the Israeli 
occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. By 
drawing attention to Ahava’s settlement products, we educate 
the American and global public on what is really happening 
in the occupied West Bank, contributing to the much larger 
international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions 
calling on the Israeli government to respect international law 
and Palestinian rights. 

Soon after the launch of the campaign, we discover that 
Sex and the City star Kristin Davis is both Ahava’s spokes- 
model and an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador. Our boycott 
supporters contact Oxfam, which has an explicit policy 
against Israeli settlement products. Oxfam suspends Davis 
from publicity work for the duration of her Ahava contract. 
The story lands in the gossip column of the New York Post; 
terrible publicity for Ahava, but good for fans of justice and 
peace. Davis does not renew her contract with the company. 


“The Stolen Beauty 
campaign has 
proven effective 
because it is 
multipronged , 
strategic, global 
and responsive ” 


CASE: The Stolen Beauty boycott campaign 


Related: 



THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Action logic p. 208 


Muddy Reality: Ahava is Stolen Beauty. Photo by CODEPINK. 

Next, Ahava announces a Twitter contest for free products. 
We issue a call to Tweet in messages like: “Does AHAVA offer 
a moisturizer to sooth my hands after so much ethnic cleans- 
ing?” We culture jam their marketing contest, turning it into 
a #socialmediafail. 

Creative interventions continue to target points of inter- 
vention such as stores that carry Ahava’s products see THEO- 
RY: Points of intervention. For instance, ten women don pink 
bathrobes with matching towels wrapped around their heads 
and walk into these stores, singing jingles about the ills of 
occupation. Protesters and other patrons ask the store to stop 
stocking Ahava cosmetics. 

Ahava’s reputation as an international brand has been 
tarnished by the first two years of the boycott campaign and 
the resulting bad press. The company lost its celebrity spokes- 
model, it lost the lease on its Covent Garden store, and a num- 
ber of small, independent stores stopped stocking its products. 
Ahava removed the store locator from its U.S. web site, and 
sent a letter to retailers filled with false claims about our cam- 
paign and where they source their materials. In 2010, Ahava 
was condemned as being complicit in Israeli government 
crimes at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, London Session, 
and its production and labeling practices have come under 
extensive scrutiny in Europe. 


CASE: The Stolen Beauty boycott campaign 


365 



WHY IT WORKED The Stolen Beauty campaign has proven effective because it 

is multipronged, strategic, global and responsive. It provides 
space for engagement at all levels of activism, in locations 
around the world. The campaign employs a range of tac- 
tics including street actions, guerrilla theater, culture jam- 
ming, social media work, traditional media outreach, and 
consumer education. The campaign acts as an omnipresent 
mosquito buzzing around the head of the company, a target 
chosen because its practices contravene international law. 
A core group developed the campaign — the web site, the 
tools and resources — and coalition activists around the 
world were able to use them in their locales. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Boycott web 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Street theater web 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Distributed action p. 36 


CREATIVE DISRUPTION: Stolen Beauty activists get attention and 
tell a story with outrageous costumes, direct action and clever 
yet clear messaging. Stores that sell illegal settlement prod- 
ucts come to a standstill when we enter singing in bathrobes, 
smeared with mud or performing marriage ceremonies pledg- 
ing ourselves to the pursuit of Palestinian human rights. 

DISTRIBUTED ACTION: Stolen Beauty has succeeded in getting a 
diverse set of tools into the hands of high numbers of activ- 
ists to wage a multi-pronged, global campaign. The script and 
song sheets for actions like performing a marriage ceremony 
pledging to boycott settlement products in front of the Bed, 
Bath & Beyond Bridal Registry are easily downloadable from 
the Stolen Beauty website. We provide Twitter suggestions via 
email for the lone wolf and tips for indoor Valentine’s Day 
parties when the weather is bad to clog the comment threads 
of beauty sites that sell Ahava. 


KEY PRINCIPLE USE THE LAW ’ D0N ' T BE AFRAID 0F IT: Occupation is illegal. It di- 
rectly contravenes international law, the Geneva Conventions 
and existing United Nations resolutions. Stolen Beauty puts 
the onus where it belongs: Israeli companies are breaking the 
law and profiting from the occupation, and should be held 
to account. While bringing attention to these facts, activists 
dressed in bathrobes, bikinis or bridal wear risk arrest in 
order to creatively disrupt business as usual. 


366 


CASE: The Stolen Beauty boycott campaign 


MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: People shopping for high-end cos- 
metics, as well as passersby, store clerks and managers, are 
made aware of the Israeli occupation when they are exposed 
to Stolen Beauty’s actions. The campaign undermines the 
legitimacy of the “Made in Israel” stamp, and makes visible 
illegal profiteering from occupation. 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Reframe p. 1 68 

Create levels of participation web 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Always have an ask or next step web 
By any media necessary web 


PICK BATTLES BIG ENOUGH TO MATTER, SMALL ENOUGH TO WIN: 

Will activists stop the Israeli occupation of Palestine by boy- 
cotting a cosmetic company? No. But the campaign is affect- 
ing Ahava’s reputation and bottom line by exposing its ugly 
secrets, and contributing to the much larger Boycott, Divest- 
ment and Sanctions campaign. Activists have convinced many 
local stores to stop carrying Ahava, and the British Boycott, 
Divestment and Sanctions campaign was able, after months of 
continual protest, to get the Ahava flagship store to close its 
Covent Garden location. 


CASE: The Stolen Beauty boycott campaign 


367 


m 


CASE STUDY: 

treets 


into gardens 


368 


WHEN 

1999 

WHERE 

New York City 

PRACTITIONERS 

Reclaim the Streets NYC 
More Gardens! Coalition 
Lower East Side Collective 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Mark Read 


In the spring of 1999, real estate values in New York’s East 
Village and Lower East Side neighborhoods were skyrocketing, 
in no small part due to the beautiful network of community 
gardens in the area. In a massive giveaway to corporate 
developers, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced he 
would auction off 198 community gardens. Gardeners and 
their supporters began organizing to stop it from happening. 

On a gray and quiet Saturday afternoon weeks before the 
auction, two “tripod teams” were anxiously milling about 
on Avenue A in the East Village, anticipating the arrival of 
a boisterous crowd assembling several blocks away. All the 
constituent parts of the tripod, along with several plant box- 
es and other sundry items, had been stashed in strategic and 
discrete locations along the sidewalk. 

Meanwhile, the diverse and growing crowd was in the 
garden finishing its face-painting, elf-costuming and other 
preparations. Lace-winged children and leaf-adorned stilt- 
walkers made their way into the street. The brass notes of 
trombones, tubas and saxophones rang out as the throng 
of garden protectors proceeded westward along 7th Street 
and turned the corner onto Avenue A. When the crowd 
arrived, the teams quickly erected the tripods. The designated 
“perchers” quickly ascended the rope that hung from the 
center and installed themselves in the cradle formed at the 
top. Traffic was thus effectively and immediately shut down. 
Marchers dragged the plant boxes into the street, gave pack- 
ages of seeds to the children and began teaching them how 
to make roses grow. With a bit of rope and some ingenuity, 
others were able to turn several misplaced police barricades 
into a seesaw. Beautifully wrapped packages were opened 
to the delight of all as the crowd, which had been asked to 
bring gifts to share, bestowed one another with presents. A 
sound crew wheeled a massive set of speakers into the street 
and began broadcasting a pirate radio signal that was trans- 
mitting from a nearby apartment. Dancing began in earnest, 
and the crowd soon swelled to 300, then 400, then 500. 

For the next several hours, a city block became the sort 
of public space that Giuliani was planning to eliminate by 
selling the gardens. One banner above all others summed 


CASE: Streets into gardens 


up the driving logic of the action: “If they’re going to pave 
over the places where we play, then we will play in the places 
they’ve paved over.” The frame stuck, and was repeated in 
the mainstream media that night and the next day. By the 
time the auction was scheduled to take place, public senti- 
ment had shifted strongly against the mayor on this issue. 
He was ultimately forced to stop the auction and sell the 
gardens to private land trusts instead of greedy developers, 
and all of the gardens were preserved in perpetuity. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Temporary Autonomous Zone p. 270 
Action Logic p. 208 
Ethical Spectacle p. 230 



A Reclaim the Streets' festival of resistance in support of Streets into Gardens action. 


The “streets into gardens” action viscerally demonstrated 
what would be lost were Giuliani to succeed in paving over 
the community gardens of New York City. By taking the 
city’s position on gardens (pave them over) and inverting 
that logic in the streets (play on the pavement), organizers 
were able to reveal the outrageous injustice of the auction 
itself while simultaneously embodying the world they were 
fighting to preserve. The action was also, crucially, one part 
of a much larger, broad-based campaign. It was thus clearly 
understood within the context of that campaign to save the 
gardens. Lastly, the action was able to draw in passersby and 
turn them into participants because it was bold, innovative, 
daring, and most of all, fun! 


WHY IT WORKED 


CASE: Streets into gardens 


369 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Mass street action p. 68 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Direct action p. 32 


CARNIVAL-PROTEST: This action was a “festival of resistance” or 
a carnival-protest, and it certainly benefited from the use of 
this tactic in the expected ways: the protest didn’t feature a 
long list of speakers, it didn’t insist on using angry chants to 
drive its message, it was participatory and it was fun! People 
from around the neighborhood actuallyjoined in the action 
and stayed in the street with the demonstrators. The tactic 
of carnival protest was especially well-suited to the frame 
of the action, which was all about maintaining and protect- 
ing public spaces that are themselves cites of celebration and 
community participation. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Escalate strategically p. 134 
No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p. 1 56 
Reframe p. 168 
Show, don't tell p. 174 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
Create levels of participation web 


TURN THE TABLES: By arbitrarily repurposing a street and sym- 
bolically transforming it into a community garden, neigh- 
borhood residents exposed an analogously arbitrary act of 
repurposing by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Through that 
analogy, the action was made coherent, and the action’s very 
audacity, by echoing the audacity of Giuliani’s move to sell 
off so many gardens at once, lent a moral credibility to a 
stunt that might otherwise have come off as merely uncivil. 

MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: The mechanisms of power are 
often obscured behind layers of bureaucracy and unques- 
tioned assumptions. By making visible and tangible the com- 
munity’s need for accessible green space, and clearly iden- 
tifying the source of the threat to those spaces, the action 
clarified the terms of the struggle, terms that had previously 
been murky. 


BE AN ETHICAL PRANKSTER: The utopian edge of this action is a 
world that values — prizes even — human relationships and 
community life over profits and losses. For an afternoon, 
participants created that world in the street. People gave 
gifts instead of exchanging money, sang and laughed and 
talked instead of passively consuming. It was prefigurative 
politics at its best. 

PICK BATTLES BIG ENOUGH TO MATTER BUT SMALL ENOUGH TO WIN: 

Although saving the 198 gardens that were up for auction 
was an uphill climb, we always felt the fight was winnable. 
There was wide support for community gardens throughout 
the city, including allies on the city council and within the 


370 


CASE: Streets into gardens 



A poster for Reclaim the Streets' festival of resistance in support of Streets into Gardens action. 

mainstream media. Our action was one part of a broad and 
powerful campaign that was well organized and well connected. 
We were not shocked that we won, but it was a big enough win 
to warrant widespread celebration. 


CASE: Streets into gardens 


371 



boycott 


WHEN 

2001-2005 

WHERE 

Across North America 

PRACTITIONERS 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Student/Farmworker Alliance 
Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida 
Just Harvest USA 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Yutaka Dirks, “From the jaws of defeat: 
Four thoughts on social change strategy," 
Briarpatch Magazine [Nov./Dec., 2011) 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers 

http://www.ciw-online.org/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Yutaka Dirks 


372 


“The boycott win 
was an unqualified 
victory. All 
demands were 
met, including the 
first-ever ongoing, 
direct payment 
to farm workers.” 


For years, workers in Florida’s 
tomato fields have endured 
poverty wages and terrible 
working conditions. In 1993, a 
small, community-based orga- 
nization called the Coalition 
of Immokalee Workers (CIW) 
formed to demand an end to 
these unfair labor practices. By 
2005, they had won a boycott 
campaign against Taco Bell, 
one of the largest fast-food 
corporations in the world, 
raising wages by almost seventy-five percent and setting 
an inspiring precedent for farm worker organizing. 

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers began by develop- 
ing a list of concrete demands that, if met, would realize 
their vision of social justice in the fields. These were later 
refined into “fair food principles” which would bring tan- 
gible benefits to their base, and were sufficiently clear that 
the workers could know whether or not they had succeeded 
in their campaign. 

Once they had established their goals, the CIW identified 
tomato growers as the group that had the power to give them 
what they wanted. The CIW fought a well-organized cam- 
paign targeting the growers, engaging in three community- 
wide work stoppages and a high-profile hunger strike. The 
CIW was able to win the first wage increase in twenty years, 
but wages were still well below the poverty level. They realized 
that they, the workers alone, did not have the power to force 
their target to capitulate, so they looked for another target. 

The CIW identified the corporations that bought from 
the growers, including Taco Bell, as a secondary target. Taco 
Bell’s success, unlike that of the growers, depended on its 
public image. The CIW also identified potential allies that 
could help them put pressure on their target. They reached 
out to students, because Taco Bell targeted them as consum- 
ers. They also allied themselves with social justice-oriented 
religious groups. 


CASE: Taco Bell boycott 


In 2001, the CIW launched the boycott of Taco Bell, calling 
on the fast-food giant to take responsibility for human rights 
violations in their supply chain, to improve wages and working 
conditions by passing on a penny-per-pound pay increase to 
the workers, and to buy only from Florida growers who passed 
this penny per pound payment on to the farm workers. 

The ClW-led campaign organized cross-country cara- 
vans that held rallies outside Taco Bell restaurants; students 
organized petitions to “Boot the Bell” from campus food 
courts; religious, labor and community leaders were ap- 
proached to publicly endorse the boycott and further isolate 
Taco Bell from support; and they directly targeted Taco Bell 
headquarters with public hunger strikes and marches. 

After four years of actions by the CIW and their allies, 
Taco Bell conceded. The boycott win was an unqualified vic- 
tory. All demands were met, including the first-ever ongo- 
ing, direct payment to farm workers, substantially raising 
their wages, and an enforceable code of conduct. The agree- 
ment was a clear victory for the workers who struggled for 
it against an intransigent target, and helped bring renewed 
energy to the fair-food movement. 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Anti-oppression p. 212 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 


The Taco Bell boycott was successful because the Coalition 
of Immokalee Workers succeeded in identifying who was re- 
sponsible for their low wages and poor working conditions 
and then crafted a strategy that targeted the weakest link. 
The fast-food corporations that bought the Florida tomatoes 
were vulnerable in a way that growers, the primary targets, 
were not. Ultimately, by offering leadership and opportuni- 
ties for active participation to a strong network of allies, the 
CIW was able to harness enough power to force Taco Bell to 
concede to its demands. 


WHY IT WORKED 


BOYCOTT: While the Taco Bell Boycott went beyond asking 
people not to purchase Taco Bell products, it was a useful 
centerpiece for the campaign, tapping into a rich history 
of boycotts led by exploited and oppressed people, includ- 
ing the Montgomery bus boycott and the California grape 
boycott. Recalling those powerful examples, the public easily 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Trek p. 90 

Mass street action p. 68 


CASE: Taco Bell boycott 


373 


understood the key issues and saw how it could lend its 
support to the CIW. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Choose tactics that support 
your strategy p. 112 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Bring the issue home p. 106 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Reframe p. 168 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 


CHOOSE YOUR TARGET WISELY: The CIW’s first actions targeted 
the growers responsible for wages and working conditions, 
but after winning their first wage increase in 1998, it became 
apparent that the CIW did not have sufficient power to ex- 
tract further concessions. Recognizing that the growers could 
be made vulnerable through pressure from the corporations 
that bought their tomatoes, the CIW crafted a campaign that 
played to their strengths. 

SHIFT THE SPECTRUM OF ALLIES: The CIW built a broadbased 
campaign that exposed the consumers of Taco Bell’s prod- 
ucts to the reality of the working conditions of tomato pickers. 
The CIW was able to offer leadership to supporters who were 
not farm workers and encourage them to become active, al- 
lowing them space to craft their own actions putting pressure 
on Taco Bell. 


374 


CASE: Taco Bell boycott 




Coalition of Immokalee workers rally for justice on a secondary target’s doorstep. 


CASE: Taco Bell boycott 


375 


<§>T 


CASE STUDY: 

ar sands action 


WHEN 

August-November 2011 

WHERE 

United States and Canada 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Tar Sands Action 
Indigenous Environmental Network 
BOLD Nebraska 
350.org 
Bill McKibben 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Tar Sands Action website 

http://www.tarsandsaction.org/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Duncan M eisel 
Joshua Kahn Russell 


Because tar sands oil emits four times the carbon dioxide as 
standard crude, renowned climate scientist James Hanson has 
declared that if the Canadian tar sands were fully developed, 
it would be “essentially game over for the climate.” Seeking to 
draw a line in the (tar) sands, activists successfully organized 
to delay, and possibly stop, TransCanada’s plans to build the 
Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 bar- 
rels a day of tar sands oil to Texas refineries. As of this writing 
it is unclear if the project will re-emerge in another form, but 
the movement is girding to defeat any attempted resurrection. 

Indigenous communities in northern Alberta, Canada, have 
been organizing to stop tar sands expansion for decades, and 
while many U.S. environmental groups began to join the fight 
around 2007, they had a hard time popularizing the issue in 
the United States. This changed in June 2011, when a group of 
prominent authors, scientists, Indigenous leaders, and activists, 
spearheaded by Bill McKibben, released a joint letter calling 
on climate activists to participate in two weeks of daily non- 
violent direct action at the White House in Washington, D.C. 

The action quickly became a rallying point for activists 
working on climate change issues. From August 20 to Septem- 
ber 3, 1,253 farmers, teachers, mothers, scientists, celebrities, 
Indigenous elders, faith leaders and students were arrested out- 
side the White House, garnering international media attention 
and galvanizing the environmental movement’s opposition to 
the pipeline. 

Because building the Keystone XL pipeline required a Pres- 
idential Permit to go ahead, organizers chose to target Presi- 
dent Obama as the focus of the action see PRINCIPLES: Choose 
your target wisely, Points of intervention. Activists were clear to 
distinguish between Obama as the target and TransCanada as 
the enemy. This distinction yielded a tone that was assertive but 
friendly. Even as the campaign interrupted his public speeches, 
flooded campaign offices and staged mass arrests, the emphasis 
was always on Obama’s campaign promises to “end the tyranny 
of oil” and slow the rise of the oceans. By repeating his own 
words back to him, activists framed the issue in such a way that 
Obama had both a serious liability and a huge opportunity on 
his hands: he could side with the people, or with the polluters. 


376 


CASE: Tar sands action 


Of all the tactics employed on the campaign, Obama 
officials said they were rattled most by “bird-dogging” inter- 
ruptions at high-priced fundraisers because these actions erod- 
ed the confidence of Obama’s key financial backers. Even in 
disruptive actions, the message was always inviting, remixing 
Obama’s own messaging: “President Obama, Yes You Can 
Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.” The goal was to empha- 
size the political risks of alienating his environmentalist and 
climate-conscious base. This risk was further amplified by pro- 
tests around the world, including a mass arrestable sit-in at the 
Canadian parliament. 

Building on this momentum, a second invitation to action 
was issued, this time for thousands of people to surround the 
White House on November 6, one year before the next presi- 
dential election. This event brought 12,000 people to Obama’s 
front door and showcased a wide segment of the environmen- 
tal movement, from Indigenous leaders to Nebraska ranch- 
ers to college students. Four days later, President Obama sent 
the pipeline back for a full 18-month re-review. In response, 
Republicans in Congress legislatively forced an accelerated 
timeline for approval, which led to the president choosing to 
outright deny the rushed permit. This was a definitive victory 
against the pipeline, and while TransCanada can still reapply — 
forcing us to tight the battle again, it reminds us that most 
environmental victories are temporary on their own, and re- 
quire continued organizing and pressure (alongside systemic 
change) to remain durable. 


The tar sands action effectively used Obama’s own words and 
supporters against him, framing the issue around the political 
risk Obama would be taking if he approved the pipeline. Pho- 
tos from the August action accompanied a huge majority of 
the stories written or broadcast about the pipeline. The arrests 
demonstrated the depth of opposition to the pipeline, with 
dispersed actions across the country showing the breadth of 
opposition. In addition, some of the actions — at Obama 2012 
campaign offices and fundraising events — posed an imme- 
diate threat of disrupting Obama’s political machinery while 
continuing to raise the profile of the issue. 

The action was highly successful communicating its message de- 
spite having no action logic see PRINCIPLE: Action Logic. Those 


CASE: Tar sands action 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Points of intervention p. 250 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Hashta g politics p. 238 


WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


377 


sitting-in were violating a random law — it is illegal to stand still 
in front of the White House because it inhibits tourists from 
taking clear pictures. It is illogical for scientists to sit in front of 
the White House and get arrested so tourists can take pictures. 
But because the action had two weeks to build momentum, 
had strict image and tone-discipline, ultra-clear messaging on 
banners and signs, and highly sympathetic spokespeople, the 
power of this action overcame what it lacked in action logic. 
It was highly successful in capturing the public imagination, 
getting a remarkable amount of clear media attention, and it 
put into motion a campaign that eventually beat back a multi- 
billion dollar oil pipeline. 


378 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct action p. 32 
Creative disruption p. 18 
Bird-dogging web 
Mass street action p. 68 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 
Use the power of ritual p. 198 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 


SIT-IN: One thousand two hundred and fifty three arrests over 
two weeks generated a drumbeat of news stories, trained and 
empowered a dedicated core of activists, and provided the visu- 
al and narrative campaign hook for the months to come. The 
sit-ins set a fire underneath the environmental movement. 


HOPE IS A MUSCLE: By simply using Barack Obama’s own words as 
organizing slogans, the Tar Sands Action vividly spotlighted his 
shortcomings on environmental issues, re-activating a core of 
volunteers and supporters from 2008. The campaign positively 
affirmed his hopeful statements, holding out the promise of 
the same support from environmentalists he enjoyed in 2008 
if he were able to live up to those words in his response to the 
pipeline. 

SHIFT THE SPECTRUM OF ALLIES: This action would not have 
worked a year earlier. The tactics and message were suited to 
their moment and context. Obama’s environmentalist base was 
disillusioned with his failure to live up to his promises, social 
movements were riding a global wave of revolutions, and Occu- 
py Wall Street was just taking off and giving popular voice to the 
efficacy of mass protest. The sit-ins were highly choreographed 
and made as “safe” as possible. While to some they may have 
appeared insufficiently “hardcore,” they effectively gave passive 
allies an entry point into action, identifying the key social blocs 
in need of shifting. The vast majority of participants in the tar 
sands action indicated it was their first protest experience, let 


CASE: Tar sands action 


alone their first direct action. This was paired with a grassroots- 
led organizing strategy that emphasized local autonomy within 
a clear framework. Each stage of the campaign was designed 
for participants to take themselves to the next level. 



The Tar Sands Action, Washingto, DC, September 3rd, 2011. Over 1,200 people were arrested during this two-week long 
action that culminated in President Obama rejecting the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline in January of 2012. Photo 
by Milan llnyckyj of Tar Sands Action. 

DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR THEM: During the August sit-ins, or- 
ganizers extensively documented both the actions and partici- 
pants. Photos from the event were made freely available online 
and became a key part of news stories about the pipeline for 
months to come. Also, every participant had a personal photo 
taken at a photo booth at the action training, giving everyone 
something to share and remember from the action. 

ESCALATE STRATEGICALLY: In a fight over fossil fuel infrastruc- 
ture, there is a tendency to jump immediately to physical block- 
ade tactics. By proactively setting the tone with disciplined 
arrestable actions, the campaign successfully focused energy 
from different segments of the environmental movement. The 
sit-ins held the promise of escalated actions, but maintained a 
tone that discouraged runaway escalation. 


CASE: Tar sands action 


379 



jAk CASE STUDY: 

\§Mhe teddy bear catapult 


WHEN 

April 2001 

WHERE 

Quebec City 

PRACTITIONERS 

The Deconstructionist 
Institute for Surreal Topology 


It was a classic summit protest at the height of the anti-global- 
ization movement. Thirty-four heads of state from across the 
Americas were gathering in Quebec City to negotiate the Free 
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a sweeping trade deal 
with deeply anti-democratic provisions. Protests had been 
called, tens of thousands were expected to fill the streets, and 
a giant fence defended by thousands of riot police was to be 
erected around the Old City to keep protesters far from the 
convention center. 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

The Deconstructionist Institute 
for Surreal Topology website 

http://trb. la/wHrlwq 

Press release: “We made the catapult, 
Judy Rebick got the $&$" 

http://trb.la/zsdG6c 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Dave Oswald Mitchell 



The teddy-bear catapult and ursine comrades in police custody. Photo by Gareth Lind. 

As the summit drew closer and heated debates raged in ac- 
tivist circles about how to oppose the FTAA most effectively, 
a group calling themselves the Deconstructionist Institute for 
Surreal Topology (DIST) circulated a satirical booklet promot- 
ing more creative protest tactics: “For those who yawn every 
time they see yet another Black Bloc, the Deconstructionist In- 
stitute for Surreal Topology presents this brief list of alterna- 
tives, to help spark discussion and inject a bit of creativity and 
derisive laughter into the mix.” 

Their list of protest ideas included the Gary Coleman 
Bloc (tactic of choice: continuously walking up to cops and 
demanding, “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willus?”), the Mascot Bloc, 


380 


CASE: The teddy bear catapult 



the Bloc Parents and the Fuchsia Bloc (“dressed in tights and 
pink tutus, the Fuchsia Bloc’s role is to follow the Black Bloc 
and tease them mercilessly”). DIST also jokingly proposed 
challenging the fence around the conference area with a 
Monty-Pythonesque Medieval Bloc: “If the man is gonna 
turn the summit into a fortress, the Medieval Bloc will lay 
siege with gusto. Beautiful battering rams, ladders, siege 
towers, Trojan donuts, catapults, and dead cows infected 
with the plague.” 

It was a good laugh, but seemingly nothing more — until 
a public figure sympathetic to the cause contacted the group 
and said, “if you can find someone to build a catapult, I’ll 
pay for it.” A group of catapult 

Activists with 
pots and colanders 
on their heads 
pulled the full-size 
catapult up to the 
fence and began 
gently lobbing 
teddy bears into 
lines of riot cops.” 

The stunt complete, the activists disabled the prop and aban- 
doned it to the police who were advancing through clouds of 
tear gas. Everyone thought that would be the end of it, but the 
police couldn’t bear to be outflanked on the absurdist front: 
they retaliated by sending plainclothes officers to snatch a 
prominent activist, Jaggi Singh, who had had nothing to do 
with the catapult, and charge him with possession of a “danger- 
ous weapon”: the prop itself. Singh was held for seventeen days 
before being released. 

The spurious weapons charge only added fuel to DIST’s 
fire, setting off a whole new round of press releases and media 
stunts mocking the security establishment, with activists turn- 
ing in their “stuffed comrades” (i.e. teddy bears) to local police 
stations across the country and sending them to the Canadian 
Prime Minister’s office to protest the absurd charge. 


enthusiasts in Ottawa agreed 
to build the prop (rigged to en- 
sure it couldn’t launch anything 
very far on the off-chance it was 
actually taken for a weapon), 
and DIST smuggled it into the 
city. On the day of the march, 
activists with pots and colanders 
on their heads pulled the full- 
size catapult up to the fence and 
began gently lobbing teddy bears 
into lines of riot cops. Mean- 
while, other activists disman- 
tled the offending fence with 
bolt-cutters as cameras rolled. 


Related: 

TACTICS 

Direct action p. 32 
Mass street action p. 68 
Media-jacking p. 12 
Hoax p. 54 
Street theater web 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Narrative power analysis 
Temporary Autonomous 
Zone (TAZ) p. 270 


CASE: The teddy bear catapult 


1.244 


381 


WHY IT WORKED The catapult action was not just good theater, but also effec- 
tive activism. It attacked, both physically and symbolically, 
the fence that kept civil society away from trade deal nego- 
tiations that would impact everyone. In the end, the protests 
were a success: the Summit was a public relations nightmare 
for the Canadian government, public sympathy swung toward 
the protesters and the hemisphere-wide trade deal was never 
signed. 

While the literal target of the airborne teddy bears was the 
riot police and the politicians behind them, the real target lay 
outside the fence. Firstly, the action captivated the public imag- 
ination with a media spectacle that exposed the absurdity of 
democratic leaders literally “besieged” by citizens asking rea- 
sonable questions. Secondly, the action engaged other activists 
with two important messages: first, don’t be afraid to confront state 
power, and second, when you do so, don’t lose your sense of humor or 
lose sight of the broader optics of your actions. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
The real action is your 
target's reaction web 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Reframe p. 168 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
Kill them with kindness p. 140 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Escalate strategically p. 134 


SAY IT WITH PROPS: Whether it’s a giant Earth Mother puppet, a 
rented woodchipper redecorated into an outsized Enron stock 
shredder or a teddy-bear catapult, well-chosen larger-than-life 
props can help create a media spectacle and tell a story. By 
choosing an absurdist siege engine, DIST neatly exposed the 
absurdity of the larger situation: democratic leaders forced to 
meet “under siege” by their constituents when making hugely 
unpopular decisions. 

USE ABSURDITY TO UNDERMINE THE AURA OF AUTHORITY: To oper- 
ate, power requires the aura of authority. The man in the uni- 
form or the business suit has everything under control. He’s 
sober, serious, knows best, and maybe above all, is needed (to 
protect you) . Nothing quite undermines this aura (and the ra- 
tionale for state violence that goes with it) like laughter, espe- 
cially in the context of an absurd situation they don’t know how 
to handle. If they react to it according to their normal logic, 
they look ridiculous and/or paranoid — whether it’s the Polish 
police deciding whether to arrest a bunch of dwarves for going 
to a meeting or Canadian police confiscating a teddy bear as a 
dangerous weapon. 


382 


CASE: The teddy bear catapult 


USE THE MATERIALS AT HAND: As Yogi Berra said, “When you 
come to a fork in the road, take it!” This action succeeded be- 
cause those involved responded intelligently and creatively to 
the unexpected opportunities that presented themselves: first, 
a serious offer of funding in response to an absurd proposal, 
and second, a police overreaction that further emphasized the 
absurdity of the situation. 

SHOW, DON’T TELL. The Canadian security establishment justi- 
fied its unprecedented mobilization by stirring fears of violent 
protests. But what is more non-violent than a teddy bear? By 
building an actual engine of war and choosing to gently fling 
teddy bears off of it, DIST found a playful and unexpected way 
to demonstrate their commitment to nonviolence and expose 
the government’s trumped-up fears as unwarranted. 


CASE: The teddy bear catapult 


383 


®Ti 


CASE STUDY: 


rail of Dreams 


WHEN 

January 1, 2010-May 1, 2010 

WHERE 

Miami to Washington D.C. 

PRACTITIONERS 

Students Working for Equal Rights 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Trail of Dreams website 

http://trail2010.org/ 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Gaby Pacheco 


384 


On January 1, 2010, four immigrant youth leaders (Carlos 
Roa, Felipe Matos, Juan Rodriguez and myself) embarked on 
a 1,500 mile walk from Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C. 
The long-term goal of this arduous journey was to put a hu- 
man face on the immigration debate and counteract the ef- 
fect of anti-immigrant portrayals in the mainstream media. 
The short-term goal was to put pressure on Washington to fix 
a failed system that has kept millions of undocumented mem- 
bers of our communities and families in the shadows. 

We had four requests. The first was for President Obama, 
through an executive action, to stop the detentions and 
deportations of students for two years and halt removal pro- 
ceedings for people with immediate family members who are 
U.S. citizens. The second was the passage of the DREAM Act 
(“Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors”) to 
allow access to higher education. Third, protection of immi- 
grant workers’ rights, and last, the passage of just and humane 
immigration reform. 

At the core of the Trail of Dreams trek was the desire to 
escalate our activism by publicly sharing stories and struggles, 
inspiring others to take up similar actions throughout the 
United States. The goal was to open hearts and change minds 
in order to create much-needed policy change. Over four 
months we walked through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, 
North Carolina, and Virginia, finally arriving in Washington, 
D.C., on May 1. Each day we walked sixteen to eighteen miles. 
Every encounter was an opportunity to share our story, to 
plant a seed. 

With the help of hosting communities, we held events 
where we broke bread and invited people to share their sto- 
ries, and to organize and fight for their dreams. We were 
weclcomed by congregations from various faiths, including 
the Lutherans, Unitarian Universalists, United Methodists, 
Christ Churchers, Catholics, Baptists and others. We spoke to 
crowds of white conservatives, conducted a joint event with Af- 
rican-Americans in Georgia, and of course reached out to the 
Latino base, immigrants and citizens alike. The trek would 
have not been possible without the support of a small but ded- 
icated group, including a project manager, a logistics coordi- 


CASE: Trail of Dreams 


Related: 



THEORIES 

Hamoq & hamas p. 236 
Action logic p. 208 
Points of intervention p. 250 


The Trail of Dreams, 2010. 

nator, a driver and an on-site coordinator. Our organization, 
Students Working for Equal Rights, set up local teams along 
the route to ensure our safety and well-being. 

We faced many challenges. One was blisters, body aches 
and walking through one of the coldest winters in recent 
memory. The other was the backlash from anti-immigrant 
hate groups, including the Klu Klux Klan, which targeted the 
Trail with a rally in an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate the 
walkers. Additionally, three of us faced the constant risk of 
deportation by coming into direct contact with federal immi- 
gration authorities. 


The Trail of Dreams inspired a sleeping giant, immigrant WHY IT WORKED 
youth, to take their stories to the streets. It inspired young 
people to share their dreams publicly, including youth in 
Illinois who organized “coming-out actions” declaring, “we 
are undocumented and unafraid.” In Arizona, five immigrant 
youths sat-in at Senator John McCain’s office, while several 
solidarity walks took place across the country. The Trail of 
Dreams caught the eye of both local and national media, with 
over 300 articles written about the walk and interviews with 
trekkers on several major networks. The trek inspired a na- 
tion of DREAMers and allies to fight for the passage of the 
DREAM Act, which, while not yet passed into law, remains 
within reach. 


CASE: Trail of Dreams 


385 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct action p. 32 
Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Distributed action p. 36 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 
Create levels of participation web 
Create online/offline synergy web 
Think narratively p. 186 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Lead with sympathetic characters p. 146 
We are all leaders p. 202 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 
Take risks but take care p. 182 
Make new folks welcome p. 150 
Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 


TREK: By creating a national support network and taking our 
demands on the road, we were able to directly challenge racist 
and anti-immigrant policies. As openly undocumented youth 
with the legitimacy of a broad-based movement behind us, 
we were able to meet with sheriffs, police officers, immigra- 
tion agents and other officials without being detained or de- 
ported. We proved that the power of people is stronger than 
inhumane laws and a broken immigration system. 

EVERYONE HAS BALLS/OVARIES OF STEEL: There is nothing more 
powerful than letting your heart lead you. If we had listened 
to all the people who told us this walk was “crazy,” “suicidal,” 
“not real organizing” or “impossible,” the trek never would 
have happened. We didn’t let fear paralyze us; we knew that if 
we opened our hearts to the community, people would listen 
and respond. We followed our hearts and sparked a movement. 

SHIFT THE SPECTRUM OF ALLIES: Although one of our goals was 
to inspire our community, another was to reach out to people 
who were misguided by the media. We wanted to speak to 
those who felt that we did not belong. We wanted to share with 
them our stories and allow them to decide for themselves. After 
talking with us, many anti-immigrants shifted their position. 

KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS: We didn’t fight hate with hate but 
rather with love. When a man told Felipe he was less than hu- 
man because all he was an “illegal,” Felipe responded, “God 
bless you.” When a group of young people came to disrupt our 
walk with a big Confederate flag, we walked with them and 
shared our stories until they folded the flag and left. When we 
went to Arizona and met with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “America’s 
toughest sheriff” and a tireless crusader against liberal im- 
migration policies, I hugged him. I told him that he was our 
brother who had gone astray, that he and I were equals, and 
that our “papers” were in our blood. I touched his heart with 
my right hand and said that I hoped he would change. He 
didn’t arrest us, and that day we faced each other as equals. 


386 


CASE: Trail of Dreams 





Charlotte Ryan 




CASE STUDY: 

Virtual Streetcorners 


WHEN 

June 2010 

WHERE 

Greater Boston 

PRACTITIONERS 

John Ewing 

FURTHER INSIGHT 

Virtual Streetcorners website 

www.virtuaicorners.net 

Front page story on Boston Globe 

http://tinyurl.com/25zgepk 

Blog entry on PBS.org 

http://www.pbs.org/idealab/john_ewing/ 

Profile piece on WGBH TV 

http://bit.ly/v80tkD 

Atlantic Magazine online interview 

http://bit.ly/tSD9qO 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

John Ewing 


388 


“The concept 
was simple and 
easily understood, 
but at the same 
time led to profound 
experiences ” 


From “red-lining” in the ’50s to 
busing in the ’70s and recent 
police harassment of Harvard 
professor Henry Louis Gates, 

Boston has been a crucible of 
racial tension in America for 
decades. Typical of many large 
cities, segregation along ethnic 
and class lines still often deter- 
mines where people live and 
how they navigate the city. It is common for people living in 
one neighborhood to know very little about, or to never have 
traveled to, adjacent areas of the city. 

Coolidge Corner in Brookline and Dudley Square in Roxbury 
are hubs of their respective communities. Brookline has a 
large Jewish population that migrated in the 1960s from the 
Dudley area in Roxbury, so there’s a historical connection. 
Roxbury is now a black and Latino neighborhood. Despite 
being just over two miles apart and connected by a city bus, 
people living in these neighborhoods rarely visit the other. 

Virtual Streetcorners was a public art installation inviting 
people to close that gap and experience the city in a new way. 
Using technology developed to bridge much larger geograph- 
ical distances, the project instead traversed the social bound- 
aries that separate two neighborhoods. 

Throughout the month of June 2010, large glass store- 
fronts in both neighborhoods were transformed into giant 
video screens providing pedestrians at each location a portal 
into the others’ world. Running 24/7, these life-size screen 
images and AV technology facilitated real-time interaction 
between residents of the two communities. A passerby could 
look into the window in one location and see out the window 
in the other, and be able to converse with whomever might be 
standing there. 

In addition to spontaneous interactions, there were many 
programmed activities. Local politicians — from city council- 
ors to former presidential nominee Michael Dukakis — joined 
artists, educators, activists and religious leaders in street cor- 
ner dialogues on a range of issues. Citizen journalists were 


CASE: Virtual Streetcorners 


hired to come to the screens and deliver daily news reports 
about what was happening in each neighborhood. 

The project generated a great deal of excitement and at- 
tracted a wide range of participants. Ironically in this era of 
technology, people treated it as something magical when it was 
simply a street corner from across town appearing in the win- 
dow. Many found it entertaining to connect in this way. Others 
used the opportunity to tackle more philosophical or socio- 
political issues. “There was an odd sense of safety in talking 
with someone I had never met,” said one participant. “It’s as if 
the virtuality of the whole thing emboldened us to say things 
we’d never say if we simply sat next to each other on a bus.” 


The piece touched a nerve and tackled an issue rarely 
addressed head-on. The concept was simple and easily under- 
stood — “connecting neighborhoods which are next to each 
other yet ‘worlds apart’ ” — but at the same time led to profound 
experiences. It invited people to participate in a solution rather 
than attacking them for being racist and classist. We hired 
community organizers in advance who worked for months 
laying the groundwork, and had strong coalitions with trusted 
local organizations bridging class and race lines. It worked on 
different levels, from simple commentary and observation to 
involved participation. 

The tech was complex and far from foolproof. If tech is going 
to be put to use by the public, it needs to be rock-solid, even if 
it means sacrificing some utility. 


ART INTERVENTION: Public art is one of the few ways to have a 
large art project seen by tens of thousands of people without 
having to shoehorn your ideas into the art gallery system. One 
of the advantages of contemporary art is that it can include 
almost anything, including activism, education, science and 
community organizing. The project relied on audience par- 
ticipation to create its meaning, and was accessible to audi- 
ences that wouldn’t necessarily attend galleries. 

NAME THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Virtual Streetcorners spot- 
lighted issues that are always in front of us but that we tend to 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Anti-oppression p. 212 
Environmental justice p. 228 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Action logic p. 208 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
Story of self web 
Social sculpture web 
Art as life web 


WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


KEY TACTIC 

used 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 


CASE: Virtual Streetcorners 


389 


OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 


Create levels of participation web 
Take direction from the 
most impacted web 
Consider your audience p. 118 
Make cross-class alliances web 


ignore on a day-to-day basis. Passersby were brought face to 
face with people from a different class and race background, 
pointing up how lack of diversity, rather than diversity, is in 
fact the social norm. 

SHOW, DON’T TELI The project concisely visualizes the problem 
but leaves an opening for people to respond based on their 
own experience. Statistics could convey a similar message, 
but the compelling narrative and reliance on community 
participation made the project more engaging than yet 
another opinion piece on Boston’s racial problems. 


SIMPLE RULES CAN HAVE GRAND RESULTS: Virtual Streetcorners 
provided a medium and an underlying narrative, but then left 
it up to participants to determine their own experience. It 
facilitated a discussion rather than voicing an opinion. 


LAY THE GROUNDWORK: On the face of things, the project was 
very simple — set up video conferencing between two street 
corners so people can talk to each other. In reality, however, it 
took years of background work: researching history, thinking 
through the interactive design and building relation- 
ships with residents and community organizations in both 
neighborhoods. 


390 


CASE: Virtual Streetcorners 



who am i to 


www.virtualcorncn.net by johnewinq r jl | ^ it #i g£) rufa B> 


J. > 

it’s about time we 


Ik X-. 


talked 


i S milas - worlds apart 

virtual 


14/ 1 video connection 
eMlIdge dr dndley «q 
tuna. 1010 


www.virtaalcorncrs.net byjohnewing S Q) nefa p»«ovio*« 


Virtual Streetcorners bus ad. 


CASE: Virtual Streetcorners 


391 



CASE STUDY: 

Whose Tea Party? 


WHEN 

April 15, 1998 [Tax Day] 

WHERE 

Boston 

PRACTITIONERS 

United for a Fair Economy [UFE] 
Art for a Fair Economy 
Rich People’s Liberation Front 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Andrew Boyd 


Two Republican Congressmen, Dick Armey from Texas and 
Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, have come to Boston to promote 
their snake oil proposals for a flat tax and national sales tax, 
two initiatives that would dramatically shift the tax burden 
off the wealthy and onto low- and moderate-income working 
families. 

They’ve set up a classic photo opportunity by inviting na- 
tional TV and print media to the Boston Harbor Tea Party 
Ship Museum, where they plan to symbolically throw the 
entire IRS tax code into Boston Harbor. With the cameras 
rolling, they step up to the railing of the Tea Party boat, ready 
to heave forth an enormous trunk containing the tax code. 

Suddenly, two protesters from United for a Fair Economy, 
a Boston-based NGO working for greater economic equality, 
paddle into sight in a small dinghy. One of them is in a hard 
hat, the other clutching a plastic baby doll. They paddle the 
precarious “Working Family Life Raft” into position directly 
below where Armey and Tauzin are standing and plead, “Your 
flat tax will sink the working family!” and “You’ll drown us 
with your sales tax!” Other UFE protesters, who have snuck 
onto the Tea Party ship and are dressed in fancy suits and 
dresses, start egging on the Congressmen, chanting, “Sink 
’em with the sales tax!” and “Drown ’em with the flat tax!” 

Armey and Tauzin stand paralyzed on the boat. Their 
handlers go into a panic as UFE staff approach the media 
with press releases, explaining the symbolism of the protest 
and offering evidence of how both the flat tax and the na- 
tional sales tax will sink working families. 

Finally, not knowing what else to do, they throw the tax 
code trunk into the harbor, swamping the fragile life raft 
and plunging UFE Education Director Chris Hartman, UFE 
financial manager Kristin Barralli, and plastic baby doll Ve- 
ronica into Boston Harbor. 

Their media stunt hijacked out from under them, Repre- 
sentatives Tauzin and Armey retreat to their limousine, which 
is now surrounded by cheering members of the Rich People’s 
Liberation Front, a UFE theater group, holding signs reading, 
“We love you Armey and Tauzin!” “Tax cuts for us, not our 
maids,” “Free the Forbes 400,” and “Rich folks love the flat tax!” 


CASE: Whose Tea Party? 


Quickly, images of the up- 
ended Working Families Life 
Raft are broadcast around the 
planet through hourly runs 
on CNN and other networks. 

The Reuters International sto- 
ry is titled, “GOP Tax Photo 
Op Backfires.” The Associated 
Press reports, “Protesters Use 
Tax Day For Batting Practice.” 

Rush Limbaugh chortles that 
he was glad the UFE protesters 
got wet. UFE staff conduct live 
TV interviews and radio feeds 
all afternoon describing the 
protest and why the flat tax and 
sales tax will hurt working fami- 
lies. The next day, the Boston Globe and dozens of other daily 
papers run a three-photo sequence of the raft’s demise. 

For UFE activists, it’s just another day fighting the power 
by combining education, humor, direct action, research, me- 
dia savvy, and nautical skills. 


“The protesters 
understood the 
symbolism of 
the COP event, 
and instead of 
disrupting or 
denouncing it, 
they participated 
in it, and thus were 
able to reframe it” 


Related: 

THEORIES 

Action logic p. 208 
Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Narrative power analysis p. 244 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Activist realpolitik web 


“Pranks are symbolic warfare,” Abbie Hoffman once said, 
and this action is a perfect illustration of that maxim. The 
protesters understood the symbolism of the GOP event, 
and instead of disrupting or denouncing it, they partici- 
pated in it. By accepting the original symbolism at face 
value, UFE was able to extend and reinterpret it. What 
was initially posed, however disingenuously, as an act of 
liberation from a despised tax code, was revealed as a 
dumping of society’s tax burden onto the shoulders of or- 
dinary people. 


WHY IT WORKED 


MEDIA-JACKING: The congressmen set up the event and sent 
out the press releases. It was their name recognition (and 
PR budget) that drew the media coverage. But the UFE stunt 
hijacked it out from under them. Two ordinary people (and 
a doll) getting capsized by a couple of congressmen is far 
more interesting than the hokey set-piece event the suits had 
planned. If the intervention hadn’t been so ballsy, dramatic, 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Direct Action p. 32 
Guerrilla Theatre p. 52 


CASE: Whose Tea Party? 


393 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Think narratively p. 186 
Deploy sympathetic characters p. 146 
Reframe p. 168 
Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Play to the audience that isn't there p. 160 
Shorn, don't tell p. 174 
Make it funny web 
Stay on message p. 178 
Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 


394 



Republican lawmakers had their media event hijacked out from under them in this classic example of media-jacking. 
The “Working Family Life Raft" was capsized seconds later as the lawmakers dropped the tax code into Boston Harbor. 
(United for a Fair Economy) 


and entertaining, the media wouldn’t have followed UFE as 
they flipped the event away from GOP talking points. 


PUT YOUR TARGET IN A DECISION DILEMMA: Once the congress- 
men were caught by surprise, they had two choices: go ahead 
with their plan and drop the trunk of tea onto the life raft, or 
back down, sparing the ordinary folks down below the conse- 
quences of their selfish actions. Either way, they would lose: 
either they participated in demonstrating the damage their 
policies would cause, or they conceded the truth of that dam- 
age and were seen as rethinking their controversial stance. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH: The UFE activists sleuthed out the crucial 
details by calling up the congressmen’s office and pretending 
to be supporters planning to show up and cheer them on, and 
designed their action accordingly. UFE also scoped out the 


CASE: Whose Tea Party? 


physical site beforehand, identifying a good hiding place for 
the raft. 

CAPTURE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE: The congressmen didn’t 
know tht the little raft was coming. They didn’t realize that 
the Rich People’s Liberation Front was in their midst until 
the trap had been sprung. Seizing the initiative allowed UFE 
to steal the show. The congressmen being caught by surprise 
itself became part of the media story. 

DO THE MEDIA’S WORK FOR IT: UFE didn’t just pull off the prank 
and hope for the best from the media, they guided the media 
through every element of the story. The organization’s codi- 
rector (in a straight, nontheatrical role) worked the media 
both before and after the stunt. He handed out press releases 
and gave the cameramen a heads-up, suggesting they set a 
wide angle to capture the larger scene that was about to un- 
fold. Afterwards, he was available on the spot (and the rest of 
the day by phone) for expert commentary addressing both 
the prank and the deeper issues to which it spoke. 


CASE: Whose Tea Party? 


395 


CASE STUDY: 

Wisconsin Capitol occupation 


WHEN 

Spring 2011 

WHERE 

Madison, Wisconsin 

CONTRIBUTED BY 

Duncan M eisel 


From February 14 to early March 2011, opponents of Governor 
Scott Walker’s legislation to strip civic unions of collective bar- 
gaining rights filled Wisconsin’s state capitol with a non-stop 
protest that became one of the largest labor mobilizations 
in the U.S. in a generation. Though the protests were ulti- 
mately unsuccessful, they heralded a major watershed in the 
labor movement’s resistance to austerity cuts. 

Protests began shortly after Gov. Walker proposed his 
legislation. On February 14, a group of unionized teaching 
assistants from the University of Wisconsin at Madison led a 
Valentine’s Day-themed protest at the capitol, joined by labor 
and student groups. Labor-student collaboration became a 
model for the remainder of the organizing, as state employees 
used their workplaces and community roles to contact people 
not immediately affected, widening the struggle and helping 
provoke a political crisis in the state. 

Wisconsin state law allowed for the capitol to remain open 
as long as public debate continued about a pending bill. The 
teaching assistants noticed that the senate had failed to set 
a limit on the number of speakers on a floor debate about 
Walker’s bill, and so signed up thousands of people to offer 
testimony. This kept debate open indefinitely, as well as the 
capitol itself, and eventually turned the occupation into a 
twenty-four-hour speak-out, with a microphone set up in the 
middle of the rotunda. The microphone served as an invita- 
tion to everyone to be heard at the protest, and triggered an 
important shift in tone and approach. What had begun as 
a simple defense of workers’ rights now shifted to become 
an inclusive forum for multiple groups hurt by budget cuts. 
The boldness and persistence of the tactic galvanized thou- 
sands of people to join in, and within days 70,000 people 
were marching to oppose the Governor’s budget. 

Protests were also well-coordinated with progressive and 
Democratic legislators. Three days after protests began, 
fourteen senate Democrats fled the state of Wisconsin to 
deny the GOP a quorum. This bought political space and 
time in addition to the literal space and time that had been 
seized in the capitol building. 

Additionally, the occupation focused attention and sup- 


CASE: Wisconsin Capitol occupation 


Related: 



Protesters crowd the rotunda of the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin in early 2011. The mass outpouring of both 
labor and students was a key to power of the occupation. Photo by Emily Mills. 

port by connecting with other movements and national pro- 
gressive media networks. The Egyptian revolution was in full 
flower at the time and lent energy and inspiration to the 
Wisconsin encampment. Protesters carried Egyptian flags, 
and several Egyptian revolutionaries sent support in the 
form of pizzas ordered from local business to be delivered 
to the capitol. Solidarity pizzas then rolled in from across 
the world. The occupation was also one of the first to use 
continuous livestreaming to document itself. 

Eventually, Governor Walker’s legislation was passed in 
a legally suspect parliamentary gambit, and the occupation 
forces switched to an electoral recall strategy. 


Buoyed by both a proud Wisconsin progressive tradition 
and a national sense of disenfranchisement, the Wisconsin 
Capitol Occupation effectively transformed an iconic public 
space into an accessible forum to voice multiple grievances 
against budget austerity in America. The protests became a 
symbol of how and why to fight back against budget cuts, as 
public employees connected with community members. 

After the bill was passed, the fourteen senators returned. 
A debate ensued. Mainstream organized labor encouraged 
protesters to bring the occupation to a close, in order to 


CASE: Wisconsin Capitol occupation 


THEORIES 

Pillars of support p. 248 
The shock doctrine p. 262 
Points of intervention p. 250 
Cultural hegemony p. 222 


WHY IT WORKED 


WHAT DIDN’T WORK 


397 




focus energy on an electoral strategy to recall Republican 
state senators and Governor Walker. Other coalition groups 
and individuals, notably the International Workers of the 
World (IWW) contingent, argued for expanding the people- 
powered dimension of the struggle into a statewide general 
strike. The IWW was outvoted. The senate recall effort fell 
short, and at the time of this writing, the fate of the guber- 
natorial recall effort is unknown. The people-power path 
not pursued. . .well, we’ll never quite know. 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Mass street action p. 68 
Blockade p. 14 
Direct action p. 32 
Public filibuster p. 86 
Creative disruption p. 18 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 
Use the law, don't be afraid of it p. 196 
Escalate strategically p. 134 
If protest is made illegal, make 
daily life a protest p. 138 
Be both expressive and 
insturmental web 
Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 166 
We are all leaders p. 202 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 


398 


OCCUPATION: The occupation of the capitol itself provided a 
focal point for protesters trying to unite broad communi- 
ties against the budget cuts and created a space for diverse 
groups to work together to solve common problems. Holding 
the space and Riling it with sound and people united diverse 
voices, while also giving them a way to be heard. 


NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH A DRUM CIRCLE: Although the occupa- 
tion did use drums to quite a useful effect, the cliquish “drum 
circle” was never the model. Instead, everyone was invited to 
participate. The microphone at the center of the Capitol ro- 
tunda was a microcosm of the rest of the protest. Participants 
spoke through through the mic and could hear their voices 
amplified by the movement that surrounded them. 

LEAD WITH SYMPATHETIC CHARACTERS: The protests gained 
strength by placing public employees front and center, emphasiz- 
ing their role in the community. Madison teachers were some of 
the first tojoin the initial protests en masse, and their connection 
to students and parents helped humanize a struggle otherwise 
trapped in the abstraction of budgetary issues and collective 
bargaining. The visuals of firemen in full gear on the steps of the 
capitol gave the protests a heroic and all-American legitimacy. 

MAINTAIN NONVIOLENT DISCIPLINE: The dedicated nonviolence 
of the protests made cooperation with police easier and kept 
the capitol open longer. Madison and capitol police support- 
ed the occupation by refusing to enforce illegal orders to shut 
down the capitol, and even sent off-duty officers to sleep in 
the capitol to show support. 


CASE: Wisconsin Capitol occupation 



Photo by Jena Pope. 


CASE: Wisconsin Capitol occupation 


399 




CASE STUDY: 

Yomango 

WHEN 

July 2002-present 

WHERE 

Spain, then global 

PRACTITIONERS 

Yomango 


FURTHER INSIGHT 

Yomango 

http://yomango.net 

Wired, “Shoplifting as Social 
Commentary," August 25, 2005 

http://trb. la/yqtQFj 


CONTRIBUTED BY 

Leonidas Martin Saura 


On July 5, 2002, a strange new brand began cropping up 
in the streets of Barcelona. That day, at the height of sales 
season, more than fifty people rushed through the center of 
Barcelona to the Bershka clothing store to perform the very 
first Yomango fashion show. 

The show lived up to its “magical” billing: a simple object 
was turned into a symbol of another way of living. To be 
more precise, a ten-euro dress was spirited from the store, 
later to show up as a work of art at one of the most important 
art museums in the city. All the activities of Yomango were 
open, public and publicized. 

The name “Yomango” and the lifestyle it celebrates refers 
to mangar, a Spanish slang term meaning “to shoplift,” par- 
ticularly from multinational corporations. The concept of 
ethical shoplifting had suddenly acquired public visibility. 

The Yomango brand is itself a reappropriation, or de- 
tournement, of the wildly popular Mango brand see TACTIC: 
Detournement/ Culture jamming. By adding a pronominal pre- 
fix (yo, or “I” in Spanish) to the clothing company’s name, 
the modified brand takes on a different meaning entirely: 
I swipe. Yomango disrupts the primary goal of the original 
brand, turning it into a new direct-action practice based on 
the widespread habit of shoplifting. 

At first glance, this may seem like a simple surrender to 
the greedy logic of capitalism, but nothing could be further 
from the truth. As Yomango states on its website, its only 
interest in commodities is “to make something new happen 
in their midst, to push them to the point of turning them 
into something else, something that has nothing to do with 
producing a way of life that is dedicated to consumption, but 
rather moves toward inventing new possible ways of living.” 

Through its actions and its philosophy, but also through 
its style and design, Yomango turns the impulse to shoplift 
into a movement, a method, an art. For instance, Yomango 
introduced designs that were not only cool, but also served 
as gear for shoplifting, such as a “jacket of a thousand pock- 
ets,” in which all the many pockets were interconnected. 
When an object is surreptitiously placed in the jacket, it sim- 
ply disappears, only to be discovered again sometime later, 


CASE: Yomango 


Related: 



THEORIES 

Ethical spectacle p. 230 
Action logic p. 20 
The tactics of everyday life p. 268 
The commons p. 220 
Capitalism p. 216 


The Cookie Bag (Yomago Fashion) 

perhaps in the safety of your own home. 

Thanks to a proliferation of workshops in arts institu- 
tions and social organizations in cities around the world, 
Yomango’s actions have expanded since the anti-brand 
first debuted. The website — built on an open-publishing 
framework enabling people to exchange information and 
experiences with anyone else captivated by the Yomango 
brand — also contributed to its spread. Various Yomango 
communities began appearing in different parts of the 


CASE: Yomango 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Distributed action p. 36 
Direct action p. 32 
Identity correction p. 60 
Flash mob p. 46 


world: Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Germany, Italy, as well as 
other Spanish cities including Madrid and Bilbao. 

Though it celebrates individual acts of self-liberation, the 
Yomango brand also gestures toward mass political action, 
with actions targeting various multinational corporations, 
such as the “Yomango-Tango,” in which a crowd of Yomango 
dancers in Argentina liberated hundreds of bottles of Cham- 
pagne from a Carrefour supermarket, and then uncorked 
and drank them in a branch of Banco Santander — both en- 
tities directly implicated in the Argentinian economic crisis. 

These actions have served as brand advertisements as 
enticing as the glittering billboards in the heart of the me- 
tropolis. In this way, the Yomango brand spreads through 
direct-action events and highly diverse avenues of communi- 
cation: from the alternative media to the official press, from 
supermarkets to activist meetings, and from art catalogs to 
the Internet. The anti-brand is designed so that any person 
or group can reappropriate it in whatever manner he/she/it 
chooses, transforming it, plagiarizing it, elaborating on it. 

Yomango. You want it? You got it! 


Before Yomango, shoplifting was a clandestine practice. 
Yomango ’s actions, designs, and advertisements made the 
action visible, celebrating it as a way of life. Yomango worked 
both on a personal level by offering practical tools to liber- 
ate products from the multinationals, and on a collective 
level by creating an international community united by col- 
lective actions and workshops. 


ETHICAL SHOPLIFTING: Yomango celebrates stealing — not from 
people, but from large transnational corporations which 
show no respect for workers’ rights, the environment, or any- 
thing other than their bottom line. In many cases Yomango ’s 
actions have been supported or directly fostered by employ- 
ees of these large chains, some of whom have become active 
members of Yomango chapters. 

Stealing (labor, time, ideas, lives) is what transnationals do. 
What Yomango does is ethical shoplifting-, returning to the peo- 
ple what the transnationals have stolen. 


CASE: Yomango 


BRAND OR BE BRANDED: Yomango is a brand that appropriates 
and undermines other brands. Yomango captures the desires 
these brands harness and liberates them from the power of 
the market. Like other brands, it promises a lifestyle, except 
what Yomango is “selling” costs nothing at all. Yomango is a 
brand that exists outside the market. 

CREATE LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION: Yomango opens up a broad 
and diverse participatory process. All the ideas and tools, 
as well as the Yomango brand itself, were created with the 
anonymous participation of many people. In this sense, Yo- 
mango is what organizers call a “social brand.” By making 
its tools freely available, Yomango offers a kind of partici- 
pation that may be less visible than your average multina- 
tional brand, but much more extensive and integrated into 
the day-to-day lives of participants. 


KEY PRINCIPLE 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 

Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel p. 136 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 
Turn the tables p. 190 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 
Take risks, but take care p. 182 
Enable, don't command p. 132 
Balance art and message p. 100 
Make your actions both concrete 
and communicative p. 154 


MAKE THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Shoplifting is widespread, but re- 
mains largely invisible. Yomango makes shoplifting visible, 
transforming a clandestine gesture of non-cooperation with 
consumer culture into a brand, a fashion and a lifestyle that 
embodies a critique of consumer capitalism. 


CASE: Yomango 


403 



own CASE STUDY 


WHEN What happened'? 

WHERE 


EPIGRAPH 


PRACTITIONERS 


FURTHER INSIGHT 


CONTRIBUTED BY 


404 


CASE: Write your own CASE STUDY 


WHY IT WORKED 


KEY TACTIC 

used 

OTHER TACTICS USED: 


KEY PRINCIPLES 

at work 

OTHER PRINCIPLES AT WORK: 


Related: 

THEORIES 


The modular format of Beautiful Trouble allows the collection 
to expand endlessly to reflect new tactical breakthroughs, 
underrepresented areas of struggle and overlooked pearls 
of wisdom. 

Become part of Beautiful Trouble. Use this template to 
write up your own creative-activism insights. Submit your own 
module for publication on the Beautiful Trouble website here: 
http://beautifultrouble.org. 


CASE: Write your own CASE STUDY 


405 



PKACTITIOKEHS 

SOME OF THE SHOULDERS 

WE STAND ON 


Brief write-ups of some of the people and groups 
that inspire us to be better changemakers. 


“I’d rather be a lightning bolt than a seismograph 

— Ken Kesey (when asked why he’d rather be 
a cultural activist than a writer) 


Whether it’s groups (Greenpeace, The Center for Tactical Magic), 
lone artists (Banksy), mini-movements (Orange Alternative, The 
Dutch Provos) or tiny collectives (Gran Fury), a vast tapestry of 
pranksters and rebel dreamers, both living and dead, have given 
our movements their singular style and sense. The tour starts now... 


ASSEMBLED BY ZACK M ALITZ / WRITTEN BY ZACK MALITZ, MAXINE SCHOEFER-WULF & JESSE BARRON 




TACTIC 

Direct action p. 32 
Mass street action p. 68 

PRINCIPLE 

Use your radical fringe 
to slide the Overton window p. 200 

SOURCES 

ACT-UP website 

http://www.actupny.org 

Global Nonviolent Action Database, “U.S. 
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) 
demands access to drugs, 1987-89" 

http://trb.la/yhXiOu 

Detailed scenes from ACT-UP actions 

http://www.actupny.org/ 

divatv/synopsis75.html 


ACT-UP 

Founded in 1987, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) 
is an international non-partisan group dedicated to ending 
the AIDS crisis. ACT-UP utilizes direct action and devotes 
itself to political agitation around legislation and policy changes 
that can make a difference in the lives of AIDS-affected indi- 
viduals. During its peak years, ACT-UP spent much of its time 
focused on drug availability and pricing, placing significant 
pressure on the FDA through visible protest and demonstra- 
tion. These actions gained considerable media attention and 
contributed to a twenty percent reduction in price of the drug 
AZT. ACT-UP stunts have included chaining themselves to the 
VIP balcony of the New York Stock Exchange, shutting down 
the FDA, and storming of a CBS Evening News broadcast. The 
organization emphasizes the need for public education as well 
as policies to prohibit discrimination in areas like housing, 
insurance, treatment and employment. ACT-UP has seen a 
recent decline in membership, but chapters continue to meet 
and its creative protest tactics have had a lasting influence on 
subsequent protest movements. 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

THEORY 

Society of the spectacle p. 26 6 

CASE 

Occupy Wall Street web 

SOURCES 

Adbusters website 

http://www.adbusters.org 

Activist Cash, “Adbusters" 
http://trb.la/yl8Q1S 


Adbusters 

Kalle Lasn was in a supermarket, about to pay a quarter for 
use of a shopping cart, when the idea of Adbusters came to him. 
Soon after, in 1989, Adbusters magazine was released in Van- 
couver as a local quarterly, chock-full of “culture jamming” de- 
sign: the alteration and parody of advertisements for political 
effect. Adbusters’ editorial line is decidedly anti-consumerist, 
aiming to promote media literacy and resist corporate power. 
The magazine is perhaps best known as the source of the call 
to action that inspired the occupation of Zuccotti Park and the 
Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011. 


408 


PRACTITIONERS 


April 6 Youth Movement (Egypt) 

The April 6 Youth Movement played a key role in ending Hosni 
Mubarak’s twenty-nine-year stint as Egypt’s president. It 
began as a Facebook group expressing solidarity with protest- 
ing industrial workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra. The protests 
escalated to calls for a national strike, and on April 6, 2008, 
thousands of Egyptians flooded the streets. They were met 
with violent repression by police forces, resulting in four deaths 
and 400 arrests. For the next two years, members studied the 
nonviolent tactics of Serbian and Ukrainian youth movements 
as well as methods for evading government surveillance and 
harassment. In 2009 and 2010 they attempted to replicate the 
April 6, 2008 strike, but the regime was able to obstruct most 
of the group’s activities. Finally, galvanized by the success of 
the Tunisian revolution, the April 6 Youth Movement’s leaders 
announced a day of action: January 25, 2011. The subsequent 
protests, which centered on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, ultimately 
toppled Mubarak’s regime and led to a transfer of power to 
the Egyptian military. According to Mohamad Adel, a found- 
ing member of the April 6 Youth Movement, the group is now 
focused on “the building of the nation and (exerting) pressure 
on government and society in order to complete the process 
of democratic reform in Egypt.” 


Art and Revolution Collective 

The Art and Revolution Collective was a San Francisco group 
that worked in the carnivalesque puppet-and-mask perfor- 
mance style made famous by Bread and Puppet Theater. Their 
first major action was at the Democratic National Convention 
in Chicago in 1996 and involved a twenty-foot-tall puppet 
called the “Corporate Tower of Power.” To draw attention to 
Chevron Texaco, they brought kids to the gates of a California 
oil refinery to hold up paintings of their visions of the future. 
They also dressed up like salmon and “swam” in a forest to 
protest logging. Like Bread and Puppet, Art and Revolution 
often displayed generalized messages on large banners as part 
of their performances, tying the action to larger political and 
philosophical ideas (“restorative justice”). Often these mes- 
sages snuck into newspapers when photographers, snapping 
the giant puppets, captured the banners without meaning to. 


PRACTITIONERS 


TACTIC 

Occupation p. 78 
Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLE 

Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

SOURCES 

Carnegie Endowment for International 
Peace, “Egypt 6 Youth Movement" 

http://trb.la/zbDHym 

April 6 Youth Movement Facebook 

http://trb.la/xOID3m 


TACTIC 

Carnival protest web 

PRINCIPLE 

Balance art and message p. 100 

Make your actions 

concrete and communicative p. 154 

SOURCES 

Sierra Club, “Street Theater, 

Puppet Politics " 

http://trb.la/zkosHO 


Artist Network of Refuse & Resist! 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigil p. 10 

PRINCIPLE 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 
Stay on message p. 178 

SOURCES 

Artist Network of Refuse 
and Resist! website 

http://trb.la/z1yCLC 

Refuse and Resist! website 

http://www.refuseandresist.org 


The Artist Network (AN) of Refuse & Resist! (R&R!) used art 
to create a colorful culture and community of resistance. R&R! 
was a non-partisan, national activist organization, founded in 
New York in 1987 by lawyers, artists, activists, students and 
other youth who saw a trend in the U.S. toward greater state 
control. Founded in 1997, AN connected engaged artists to 
members of the resistance movement and put out calls to art- 
ists to use their tools for the cause. Some AN projects include 
“Inside the Culture of Resistance,” an ongoing series of inter- 
views with socially conscious artists, and “Not in Our Name,” 
a statement resisting the political direction the U.S. has taken 
since 9/11. On September 22, 2001, 100 artists wearing all 
black stood in silence in Union Square, holding signs reading 
“OUR GRIEF IS NOT A CRY FOR WAR.” Two more such per- 
formances took place at Union Square, and a larger number 
of artists repeated the action in Times Square. 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigil p. 10 

PRINCIPLE 

Balance art and message p. 100 
This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 

SOURCES 

Bread and Puppet Theater website 

http://breadandpuppet.org 


Bread and Puppet Theater 

The Bread and Puppet Theater wrote in their 1984 Cheap Art 
Manifesto: “ART IS FOOD. You can’t EAT it BUT it FEEDS 
you.” Their name refers to the practice of giving out free 
bread after each of their performances. Although their early 
work focused on issues specific to New York, their huge pup- 
pets on stilts were a fixture of anti-Vietnam War and other 
major protests. In 1970, Bread and Puppet left New York for 
Vermont, where they set up first at Goddard College and later 
on farmland in Glover. It was there that their most famous 
event, “Our Domestic Resurrection Circus,” drew tens of thou- 
sands of people for one weekend each year until 1998. Since 
then, the Theater has produced a carnival every weekend 
from June through September. Bread and Puppet is a non- 
profit, sustaining itself largely with revenues from European 
and American tours of their productions. The group’s pup- 
pets are displayed at the Bread and Puppet Museum, an old 
red barn in Glover. 


410 


PRACTITIONERS 


The Center for Tactical Magic 

The Center for Tactical Magic (CTM) is a Bay Area collective 
that creates installations and exhibits that subvert the role of 
illegitimate power in society. Notable for the historical and 
technological components of dieir actions, CTM often re-purposes 
established symbols of oppressive power in unexpected, anti-op- 
pressive ways. One such action involved a Merry Pranksters-like 
VW bus filled with waterbeds and suspended from a crane — 
a participatory experience that was also an allusion to a form 
of medieval torture called a “witch net.” Not all their actions have 
grim back stories; CTM exhibited “magic wands” of all kinds 
(including vibrators and airport security metal detectors) at the 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and designed a system that 
could detect illegal logging by recording the distressed chirps of 
crickets. Their patron saint would be the early twentieth-century 
magician and polymath Aleister Crowley, whom the group fre- 
quently quotes in their erudite and sometimes arcane literature. 


TACTIC 

Advanced leafleting p. 8 
Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

PRINCIPLE 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

SOURCES 

Center for Tactical Magic website 

http://www.tacticalmagic.org 


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers 

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a community- 
based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, 
Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern 
working conditions and fair treatment for farmworkers, and 
empowers individual members and Florida farmworkers as a 
whole through continual reflection, analysis and education. 
In 2001 the CIW launched the Campaign for Fair Food, an in- 
novative worker-led campaign to address human rights abuses 
in the Florida tomato industry. The campaign identifies the 
links between brutal farm labor conditions in the fields and 
the multi-billion-dollar retail food brands that buy the pro- 
duce grown in those fields. By mobilizing both farmworkers 
and consumers, the Campaign for Fair Food seeks to pressure 
retail food giants to improve farmworker wages and to reward 
growers who respect farmworker rights. This ongoing effort 
is bringing about considerable industry-wide change and im- 
proving conditions at 34,000 harvesting jobs in Florida’s to- 
mato fields. 


PRINCIPLE 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

CASE 

Modern-Day Slavery Museum p.338 
Taco Bell boycott p. 372 

SOURCES 

Coalition of Immokalee Workers website 

http://www.ciw-online.org 

Left Turn, “Coalition of Immokalee 
Workers - A Model of Strategic Organizing: 
An Interview with the Coalition of 
Immokalee Workers," August 1, 2005 

http://trb.la/xlEmSu 

SmartMeme, Redmagining Change: 

An Introduction to Story-Based 
Strategy, by Doyle Canning and 
Patrick Reinsborough, 2009 

http://trb.la/ABaDFt 


PRACTITIONERS 


TACTIC 

Detournement/culture jamming p. 28 


PRINCIPLE 

Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

THEORY 

Memes p. 242 


SOURCES 

Robbie Conal website 

http://www.robbieconal.com 


Robbie Conal 

Robbie Conal is an LA-based guerrilla poster artist known for 
his grotesque portraits of political figures. Conal studied art 
at Stanford in the ’70s, but his politics led him outside the tra- 
ditional art establishment and toward guerrilla art. The film- 
maker Clay Walker made a documentary about him in 1992 
(“Post No Bills”), and in 2004 he worked with Mear One and 
Shepard Fairey on the “Be the Revolution” national postering 
campaign, protesting Bush and the Bush wars. His latest work 
focuses on the financial crisis: one poster shows the CEOs of 
Goldman, JP Morgan, etc., wrapped in the tentacles of a gi- 
ant pink squid while testifying before Congress, which itself 
is underwater. The caption reads “Big Fish Eat Little Fish: You 
Can Bank On It.” In his “Guerrilla Etiquette + Postering Tech- 
niques” manifesto, Conal lays out three key principles of his 
work: mass distribution, counter-infotainment and empower- 
ment. He also reminds volunteers not to poster on privately 
guarded property because the folks in uniform could lose 
their jobs. 


PRINCIPLE 

The real action is your 
target's reaction web 

THEORY 

Ethical Spectacle p. 230 

CASE 

Teddy bear catapult p. 380 

SOURCES 

Deconstructionist Institute for 
Surreal Topology website 

http://tao.ca/~wrench/dist 


The Deconstructionist Institute for Surreal Topology 

The Deconstructionist Institute for Surreal Topology (DIST), 
a loose-knit group based in Canada and the UK, specializes in 
“Revolutionary Studies and the advancement of Applied Au- 
tonomy.” At the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in 
Quebec City in 2001, their Permanent Revolution pamphlet 
inspired the formation of a Medieval Bloc of protesters who 
built a giant teddy-bear-launching catapult. In 2002, when the 
G8 chose to meet in the mountain resort of Kananaskis in 
Western Canada to avoid protests, DIST issued a White Pa- 
per calling for protesters to adapt “Ewok tactics” a la Return 
of the Jedi to shut down the summit: “Maximum disruption 
combined with maximum cuddliness.” DIST has shown that 
research and a sense of humor can be the perfect antidote to 
both stale tactics and state repression. 


412 


PRACTITIONERS 


Design Studio for Social Intervention 

Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) describes itself 
as a research-and-development unit of the nonprofit sector. 
Founded in 2005 by Kenneth Bailey, then a fellow at MIT’s De- 
partment of Urban Design, DS4SI tries to create methods for 
changing the way people experience cities and public spaces. 
Their actions frequently use spectacle to reclaim public space 
that has become hostile or inaccessible to those who need 
it: they organized giant tug-of-war games in violent Boston 
neighborhoods and subway stations, for example. Their “Let’s 
Flip It” campaign turned a well-known symbol of Boston gang 
violence — baseball hats whose colors indicate allegiance to 
a particular block or project — into a symbol of nonviolence, 
by designing an all-white, no-allegiances hat and a youth-to- 
youth network to distribute it. They also repurpose familiar 
actions in new theoretical frameworks; their Food Not Bombs- 
like Public Kitchen was billed as an effort to dissociate the con- 
notations of “cheap” and “run-down” from the word “public.” 


PRINCIPLE 

Reframe p. 168 
Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORY 

Action logic p. 208 

SOURCES 

Design Studio for Social 
Innovation website 

http://ds4si.org 


The (new) Diggers 

Named for a group of seventeenth-century English agrarian 
communists, the Diggers were a San Francisco-based anar- 
chist guerrilla action group active in the mid to late 1960s. 
Opposed to private property and market exchanges, the 
Diggers promoted a Free City through artistic direct actions 
and street theater, as well as by opening free clinics, provid- 
ing free housing, distributing free food and opening free 
stores. Their media-savvy street happenings helped to publi- 
cize the hippie counterculture. For instance, a 1967 parade 
called “The Death of Hippie” involved carrying a coffin with 
the words “Hippie — Son of Media,” thereby forcing the news 
media to communicate the Diggers’ message that “hippie” 
was a media fabrication. 


TACTIC 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 

PRINCIPLE 

No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p.156 

THEORY 

Temporary Autonomous Zone p. 270 

SOURCES 

The Diggers archives 

http://www.diggers.org/overview.htm 


PRACTITIONERS 


PRINCIPLE 

Create offline-online synergy web 

THEORY 

Intellectuals and power p.240 
The tactics of everyday life p.268 

SOURCES 

East Los Angeles Dirigible Air 
Transport Lines, “Transborder 
Immigrant Tool" 

http://trb.la/xtF2qS 

RT Mark, “Computerized resis- 
tance after the big flood,” by Stefan 
Krempl http://trb.la/zguypg 


Ricardo Dominguez 

Ricardo Dominguez is a theorist and practitioner of electronic 
civil disobedience, the co-founder of Electronic Disturbance 
Theater (EDT), and the co-director of thing.net, an ISP for 
artists and activists. EDT created the FloodNet System, a par- 
ticipatory network for conducting “virtual sit-ins” — denial-of- 
service attacks in which large numbers of activists slow down 
or crash a target website by simultaneously and repetitively at- 
tempting to access it. Between 1998 and 1999, in over sixteen 
virtual sit-ins carried out in solidarity with protesting Zapatista 
communities, Dominguez targeted the official websites of the 
U.S. Border Patrol, White House, G8, and Mexican Embas- 
sy. Dominguez also deployed virtual sit-ins in solidarity with 
students protesting at UC San Diego, where he teaches visual 
art. His technology continuously reloaded the UC president’s 
home page as hundreds of protesters typed “transparency” 
into its search box. The jammed website responded with an 
error message: “File not found.” More recently, EDT 2.0 modi- 
fied the GPS applet of low-cost mobile phones to become a 
compass-like “Transborder Immigrant Tool” for undocument- 
ed immigrants completing border crossings. 


414 


PRINCIPLE 

Don't mistake your group 
for society p.130 
Escalate strategically p.134 

THEORY 

Revolutionary nonviolence p.xxx 

SOURCES 

The Earth First! Journal 

http://www.earthfirstjournal.org 

The Anarchist Library, Ecodefense: 
A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching 

http://trb.la/xb8qit 

Activist Cash, “Earth First!" 

http://trb.la/yyNecy 


Earth First! 

Earth First! is a worldwide movement of small, bioregionally- 
based groups of radical environmentalists. Formed in 1979, 
Earth First! claims to have no members, only “believers” — self- 
proclaimed deep ecologists who equally value and protect all 
life by acting locally. Their actions range from public education, 
grassroots organizing and involvement in the legal process, 
to blockades, tree sits and demonstrations. In alignment with 
their motto, “No compromise in defense of Mother Earth,” 
some Earth First! ers go a step beyond civil disobedience, sabo- 
taging industrial equipment in ecodefense. Such nonviolent 
and “productive” forms of property destruction include road 
reclamation, destruction of genetically modified crops and 
tree spiking. Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching — 
a compilation of articles and letters sent to the Earth First! 
Journal by dozens of individuals, edited by Dave Foreman and 
published by Earth First! Books — outlines methods for de- 
commissioning bulldozers, flattening tires, burning machinery 
and pulling out survey stakes, and discusses the security, safety, 
strategy and justification behind such actions. 

PRACTITIONERS 


Eve Ensler 


Eve Ensler is a Tony Award-winning author, playwright and 
anti-violence feminist activist. She wrote The Vagina Mono- 
logues, a play inspired by conversations with friends and based 
on interviews with over 200 women about their experiences 
of sexuality. The play has been translated into over forty-eight 
languages and performed in 140 countries, and inspired En- 
sler to create V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence 
against women. V-Day educates and raises funds and public 
attention through media campaigns, annual gatherings and 
benefit productions of Eve’s plays. V-Day also built the City of 
Joy, a community for survivors of gender violence in Bukavo, 
Democratic Republic of Congo. Eve Ensler has written The 
Good Body, a play about obsession with women’s appearance, 
and I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around 
The World, a collection of original monologues about and for 
girls. She writes regularly for Glamour Magazine, The Guardian, 
Marie Claire, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Utne Reader and 
O Magazine. 


PRINCIPLE 

Think narratively p.186 
Challenge the patriarchy 
as you organize p .108 
Make the invisible visible p.152 

SOURCES 

V-day website 

www.vday.org 

Huffington Post, “Eve Ensler" 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler 


Coco Fusco 

Coco Fusco is a New York-based, Cuban-American interdis- 
ciplinary artist and writer, and the director of Intermedia 
Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design. Her videos, 
multimedia installations and public performances address 
issues of race and international relations. For example, she 
issued replicas of passbooks, once required of black South 
Africans entering white neighborhoods during apartheid, to 
serve as proof of payment for the 1997 Johannesburg Biennial. 
Her more recent work deals with the role of female interro- 
gators in the war on terror. In her 2005 public performance 
“Bare Life Study #1,” Fusco dressed as a military policewoman, 
assumedauthoritativepositionsoverhftyshackledyoungpeople 
(played by drama students) in orange inmate uniforms, and 
commanded them to scrub the floor in front of the U.S. 
Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with their toothbrushes. The 
performance was based on reports that American soldiers 
order prisoners to clean their cells with their toothbrushes for 
hours at a time. 


PRINCIPLE 

Make the invisible visible p.152 
Balance art and message p.100 

CASE 

The Couple in the Cage p. 312 

SOURCES 

Coco Fusco website 

http://www.thing.net/~cocofusco 

MuseumMuseum, “Coco Fusco " 

http://trb.la/yNTxoh 


PRACTITIONERS 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

THEORY 

Cultural Hegemony p. 222 

CASE 

The Couple in the Cage p. 312 

SOURCES 

Go mez-Peha's La Pocha Nostra website 

http://www.pochanostra.com/home 

Video: “Spanish Lesson" 

h ttp://trb. la/zpgVWF 

Video: “El Leonard Cojen [Cohen] de Tijuana" 

http://www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=AXRdN9Fp3wQ 


Guillermo Gomez-Pena & La Pocha Nostra 

Guillermo Gomez-Pena is a Mexico City-born performance 
artist, activist and writer who came to the United States 
in 1978. A MacArthur Fellow and American Book Award 
recipient, his mixed-genre work ranges from short videos 
and public and interactive performances to newspaper 
and radio commentaries. He explores cross-cultural is- 
sues, including borders, citizenship, immigration and the 
politics and power of language. For example, in his video 
“El Leonard Cojen (Cohen) de Tijuana” he mixes Spanish 
and English with the intention of making a monolingual 
American feel incompetent. In 1993 Gomez-Pena found- 
ed the international collaboration and network of artists 
“La Pocha Nostra,” with over thirty associates worldwide. 
Their perhaps most significant contributions are interac- 
tive “living museums” that parody colonial practices of 
representation, much like Gomez-Pena’s earlier “Couple 
in the Cage.” 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

PRINCIPLE 

Brand of be branded p. 104 
Balance art and message p. 100 

SOURCES 

Center for Artistic Activism, 
“Gran Fury talks to Douglas Crimp" 

http://trb.la/yTTQNz 

Queer Cultural Center, AIDS graphics 

http://trb.la/Ajlc7L 

New York Public Library, 
Gran Fury Collection 

http://trb.la/x1DHTc 


Gran Fury 

Gran Fury formed after members of ACT-UP came together in 
1987 to create the art installation “Let the Record Show....” In 
the New Museum’s window on Broadway they displayed a neon 
sign reading “SILENCE=DEATH” underneath a pink triangle. 
This is today perhaps the emblem most associated with ACT- 
UP and AIDS activism in general. Several ACT-UP members 
decided to continue creating visuals and worked continuously 
from 1988 to 1994 as Gran Fury, named after the Plymouth 
automobile favored by the New York City Police Department. 
Their posters and printed ads intervened in public spaces wide- 
ly covered by the media and were soon largely accepted and 
funded by the institutional art world. Examples are the “Kiss- 
ing Doesn’t Kill” (1989) poster series Gran Fury plastered on 
NYC buses, depicting kissing couples of mixed race and sex 
along with the words “Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indif- 
ference Do.” For the forty-fourth Venice Biennale they created 
two controversial pieces: one of the pope, and the adjacent im- 
age of a gigantic erect penis titled “Sexism Rears Its Unpro- 
tected Head.” 


416 


PRACTITIONERS 


Greenpeace 

Greenpeace is the largest environmental NGO in the world, 
and the most publicly visible. Today it’s based in Amsterdam 
and works in forty-five countries, but it started with Vancouver 
activists sailing to Amchitka Island in 1971 to protest nuclear 
testing. Greenpeace’s hallmark is a combination of disruptive 
action and “bearing witness,” best evidenced by their fleet 
of three ocean-faring boats used to interrupt and document 
everything from coal mining to Arctic oil dumping. They’re 
also good in court. One amazing example is the 2008 Kings- 
north Case, in which six Greenpeace activists were arrested for 
painting “Gordon” — meaning then-Prime Minister Gordon 
Brown — on the smokestack of a coal power plant before try- 
ing to shut the plant down. The defense argued that stopping 
emissions from Kingsnorth would ultimately protect property 
elsewhere in the world, and in an unprecedented application 
of the “lawful excuse” defense, the six were acquitted. Green- 
peace’s policy of refusing donations from corporations and 
governments is well publicized, and it supports itself mostly 
through individual contributions solicited online and by its 
street teams. 


TACTIC 

Blockade p. 14 

PRINCIPLE 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Do the media's work for them p. 124 

SOURCES 

Greenpeace USA website 

www.greenpeace.org/usa/en 


Guerrilla Girls 

The Guerrilla Girls, a group of anonymous women who take 
the names of deceased female artists as pseudonyms, describe 
themselves as the “conscience of the art world.” Wearing gorilla 
masks, they use humor, facts and “outrageous visuals” to expose 
sexism, racism and corruption and “show that feminists can be 
funny.” In time for the 2002 Oscars, they unveiled anti-film 
industry billboards in Hollywood depicting the “Anatomically 
Correct Oscar: He’s white & male, just like the guys who win!” 
Their actions were inspired by a 1985 MOMA exhibit titled “An 
International Survey of Painting and Sculpture” that featured 
all white artists, of which thirteen out of 169 were women. No 
one took responsibility for the discrepancy, so the Guerrilla 
Girls publicly showed these records on posters in the streets of 
SoHo. Since then, they have created stickers, billboards, and 
posters, taught workshops internationally and written several 
books including The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the 
History of Western Art. 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

PRINCIPLE 

Challenge patriarchy 
as you organize p. 10 8 

THEORY 

Cultural hegemony p. 222 


SOURCES 

Guerrilla Girls website 

http://www.guerrillagirls.com 


PRACTITIONERS 


PRINCIPLE 

Everyone has balls/ovaries 
of steel p. 136 
Use the Jedi mind trick p. 194 

THEORY 

Society of the spectacle p. 26 6 

SOURCES 

New York Times, “Abbie Hoffman, 60's 
Icon, Dies; Yippie Movement 
Founder Was 52,” April 14, 1989 

http://trb. la/w7Edkm 

JoFreeman.com, “Levitate 
the Pentagon [1967]" 

http://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/ 

jofreeman/photos/Pentagon67.html 


Abbie Hoffman 

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) was an activist, writer and 
founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies). Hoff- 
man’s creative pranks and protests, which combined civil 
disobedience with the whimsical spirit of the counter-cul- 
ture, made him a national symbol of the 1960s rebellions. 
In 1967 Hoffman and a group of collaborators showered 
the NYSE trading floor with handfuls of dollar bills thrown 
from the gallery above, creating chaos among traders and 
temporarily suspending trading. Later that year, during 
a massive anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., 
Hoffman led a group of protesters in an attempt to levi- 
tate the Pentagon and dispel evil spirits from the building 
by singing and chanting. In the wake of the 1968 riot in 
Chicago, Hoffman, along with seven others, was arrested 
on conspiracy charges. Hoffman’s antics during the trial 
effectively conveyed his political message and turned him 
into a household name. 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigil p.10 

PRINCIPLE 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 
No one wants to watch a 
drum circle p. 156 

SOURCES 

Celebrate the Dream website 

http://www.celebratethedream.org 


I Dream Your Dream 

“I Dream Your Dream” is an interactive ritual designed to be 
performed on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 
“I Have A Dream” speech, each August 28. Participants write 
down their own dreams for a better world on a colored rib- 
bon, then exchange these dreams with a stranger. The other 
person’s dream is tied around the participant’s wrist. By prom- 
ising to wear it until it falls off, the participant in effect makes 
a promise to protect the other’s dream. In doing so, partici- 
pants recommit themselves to the cause and to each other; the 
political is personalized in a very intimate way. “I Dream Your 
Dream” was inspired by the art installation “I Wish Your Wish” 
by Rivane Neuenschwander. 


418 


PRACTITIONERS 


Improv Everywhere 

Improv Everywhere (IE) is a New York group that stages cho- 
reographed but spontaneous-looking performances in public 
spaces, often with assistance from their huge army of loyal 
volunteers. IE was founded in 2001 by Charlie Todd, who met 
many of his “Senior Agents” while performing at the Upright 
Citizens Brigade. Their performances, which they call “mis- 
sions,” have no particular political goals. Instead, IE tries to 
turn the boring monotony of urban life on its head and instill 
a sense of wonder and absurdity in the familiar scenes of city 
life. Past actions included the famous “Frozen Grand Central,” 
in which hundreds of volunteers simultaneously “paused” for 
five minutes in the middle of the station; the “MP3 Experi- 
ments,” where people followed recorded instructions to dance, 
jump, and sing in sync; site-specific mini-musicals; a fake U2 
concert; and a tuxedo-wearing bathroom attendant at the 
Times Square McDonald’s. 


TACTIC 

Flash mob p. 46 
Invisible theater p. 66 

PRINCIPLE 

Anyone can act p. 98 

SOURCES 

Improv Everywhere website 

http://improveverywhere.com 

Improv Everywhere youtube channel 

www.youtube.com/user/ 

ImprovEverywhere 


Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) 

Founded in 2004, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is an 
advocacy group comprising around 1,800 active-duty military 
personnel and veterans from all branches of the military who 
have served since 9/11, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
The group calls for withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq 
and Afghanistan, reparations for the human and structural 
damage suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, and full benefits, 
adequate healthcare (including mental health) and other 
support for returning servicemen and women. Named for 
the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings, “Winter Solider: Iraq & Af- 
ghanistan — Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations” was a 
four-day event organized in 2008 by the IVAW at which more 
than 200 veterans gave testimony about their experiences as 
soldiers. “Operation First Casualty” was a series of dramatic 
IVAW actions, designed to demonstrate the reality of war, in 
which uniformed veterans conducted mock patrols in major 
American cities. 


PRINCIPLE 

Bring the issue home p. 106 
Take leadership from those 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORY 

Ethical Spectacle p. 230 

SOURCES 

Iraq Veterans Against the War website 

http://ivaw.org 

Video: “Operation First Casualty" 

http://trb.la/yM1SIV 


PRACTITIONERS 


419 


TACTIC 

Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLE 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 17 6 

THEORY 

Alienation effect p. 210 

SOURCES 

Wikipedia, “Allan Kaprow" 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Kaprow 

Inventivity, “Tail Wagging Dog" 

http://trb.la/y8J0gZ 

The Museum of Contemporary Art, 
Los Angeles, Allan Kaprow, Art as Life 

http://www.moca.org/kaprow 


Allan Kaprow 

Allan Kaprow (1927-2006) was an American performance artist 
and teacher whose “Happenings” helped shape the New York 
performance art scene in the 1950s and ’60s, and were hugely 
influential on later artists. Happenings are characterized by 
lack of formal structure and defiance of the traditional per- 
former/audience relationship; everyone is an audience mem- 
ber and a performer simultaneously. Here are some typical 
examples of the more than 200 Happenings: Participants took 
Polaroids of each other and left them in the performance 
space; a giant room made of ice gradually melted from visi- 
tors’ body heat; fife and drum music played in a high school 
gym while people kicked balls around; visitors rearranged 
the furniture in a gallery at the New York Museum of Mod- 
ern Art; participants tied greenhouse-grown leaves to the bare 
branches of trees. “Objects of every sort are materials for the 
new art,” Kaprow wrote. “Paint, food, chairs, electric and neon 
lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, a thousand other 
things which will be discovered by the present generation of 
artists...” 


TACTIC 

Hoax p. 54 

PRINCIPLE 

Make it funny web 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 

SOURCES 

The Realist archive 

http://www.ep.tc/realist 


Paul Krassner 

Paul Krassner is a satirist and journalist who played a major role 
in the evolution of late twentieth-century American political 
humor. He’s best known as founder and editor of The Realist, 
the taboo-exploding satirical magazine that ran for forty years. 
Though he was a stylistically versatile writer, he’d worked at 
Mad magazine in college and retained a sense of the satirical 
grotesque. One of his articles, “The Parts That Were Left Out 
of the Kennedy Book,” described Lyndon Johnson penetrat- 
ing the dying JFK’s bullet hole wound — and for a while many 
people thought it was true. As a prankster, he distributed “Fuck 
Communism” bumper stickers at the height of the Vietnam 
War. As an editor, he worked with Norman Mailer, Joseph Hell- 
er and Ken Kesey (Krassner was a member of Kesey’s Merry 
Pranksters), and as an activist he co-founded the Yippies with 
Abbie Hoffman. 


420 


PRACTITIONERS 


Suzanne Lacy 

A California-based feminist activist, teacher, and leading fig- 
ure in the public art movement, Suzanne Lacy creates socially 
oriented artworks that engage with community and audience 
members on multiple levels. Her projects include and com- 
bine exhibits, live performances, narratives, video and audio, 
workshops, public speak-outs, symposia and demonstrations. 
Lacy largely creates her work within a specific community and 
spatial context and collaborates with local politicians, grass- 
roots activists, artists and other people directly affected by the 
chosen subject. Her work has mainly focused on feminist and 
urban issues. “3 Weeks in May” (Los Angeles, 1977) addressed 
rape by combining personal narratives and performative heal- 
ing rituals with help hotlines, public self-defense classes and 
the mapped display of locations of rapes reported to the Los 
Angeles Police Department in a three-week time frame. Since 
1991 Lacy has been the executive director of TEAM (Teens + 
Educators + Artists + Media Makers) in Oakland, California. 
She served in then-Mayor Jerry Brown’s education cabinet and 
was an arts commissioner for the city. Lacy is the Chair of Fine 
Arts at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, and ed- 
ited the book Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (1995). 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigl p. 10 

PRINCIPLE 

Use the power of ritual p. 198 

THEORY 

Intellectuals and power p. 240 

SOURCES 

Suzanne Lacy website 

http://www.suzannelacy.com 

“Nature, Culture, Public Space," Artist 
Statement by Suzanne Lacy 

http://trb.la/zp6D0u 


Ladies Against Women 

Ladies Against Women (LAW) was a street performance group 
that used satire to ridicule the anti-feminist backlash of 1980s 
Reagan-era America. In ruffled dresses, white gloves and pill- 
box hats, the Ladies would hand out consciousness-lowering 
manifestos that included such action items as “Restore virgin- 
ity as a high-school graduation requirement” and “Eliminate 
the gender gap by repealing the Ladies’ Vote (Babies, Not Bal- 
lots).” LAW welcomed new recruits, but only if they brought 
pink permission slips signed by their husbands. 


PRINCIPLE 

Make it funny web 

Don't dress like a protestor p. 126 

CASE 

Billionaires for Bush p. 296 

SOURCES 

Ladies Against Women website 

http://www.ladiesagainstwomen.com 


PRACTITIONERS 


TACTIC 

Mass street action p. 68 

PRINCIPLE 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

THEORY 

Expressive and 
instrumental actions p. 232 

SOURCES 

Lesbian Avengers website 

http://www.lesbianavengers.com 

ACT-UP NY, “The Lesbian 
Avengers Handbook" 

http://trb.la/yejnyC 


TACTIC 

Street theater web 

PRINCIPLE 

Balance art and message p. 100 

THEORY 

The tactics of everday life p. 268 

SOURCES 

Living Theater website 

http://www.livingtheater.org 


The Lesbian Avengers 

The direct action group Lesbian Avengers was founded in 1992 
by longtime New York lesbian activists Ana Simo, Sarah Schul- 
man, Maxine Wolfe, Anne-christine DAdesky, Marie Honan 
and Anne Maguire, who focused on issues of lesbian survival 
and visibility in public life. Their goal: avoid “stale tactics” and 
create daring and participatory confrontation that flaunts 
“lesbionic outrageousness” instead. At its peak mid-decade, 
the Avengers had more than fifty chapters worldwide. At the 
NYC memorial of a lesbian and a gay man, both killed by skin- 
heads throwing a Molotov cocktail into their Oregon home, 
the newly organized Avengers ate fire and chanted, “The fire 
will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.” Fire eat- 
ing has since become an Avenger trademark. Their most en- 
during legacy, however, is the Dyke March, still held across the 
country annually one day before the Pride Parade. The first 
Dyke March, organized without a permit in Washington, D.C., 
on April 24, 1993, in collaboration with ACT-UP and other 
Washington, D.C., area groups, was “the largest lesbian event 
in the history of the world,” according to Sarah Schulman. 


The Living Theater 

A major player in the establishment of an experimental and 
politically engaged Off-Broadway culture, the Living Theater 
was founded in 1947 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck. Their 
early work was legendary in New York for its willingness to push 
boundaries: everyone who saw “Paradise Now” in 1968 remem- 
bers the piles of naked audience members and actors (some of 
whom were arrested for indecent exposure). They’re also im- 
portant as early American adopters of playwrights like Brecht, 
Lorca, Pirandello, William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein. 
After four of their New York theaters were closed by govern- 
ment bureaucracies, the troupe went nomadic, embarking on 
what became a forty-year tour of Europe and the world. Their 
sacred text is French playwright Antonin Artaud’s manifesto 
The Theater and Its Double, which exalts immediate emotional 
experience. Although they’ve frequently performed political 
theater in unconventional venues like prisons and steel mills, 
today they have a home again in the Lower East Side. 


PRACTITIONERS 


Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) 

The Los Angeles Poverty Department, a community theater 
company, was founded in 1985 by director/performer John 
Malpede. The first performance group in the nation made 
up principally of homeless people, the group is committed to 
creating high-quality, challenging performances and multi- 
disciplinary artworks that tell the first-hand narrative of Skid 
Row’s community. Projects include “The Skid Row History 
Museum” at the Box Gallery in LA’s Chinatown, the “Festival 
for All Skid Row Artists,” and large-scale collaborations like 
“UTOPIA/dystopia — 220 Glimpses” and “Agents and Assets,” 
which integrated panel discussions with the community. The 
LAPD has created residency projects internationally, working 
with community drug recovery programs, shelters, policy ad- 
vocates and arts organizations, and has won awards includ- 
ing the LA Weekly Theater Award, New York’s Bessie Creation 
Award, and the Otto Award for Political Theater. 


PRINCIPLE 

Think narratively p. 18 6 
Take leadership from 
the most impacted p. 180 

THEORY 

Theater of the Oppressed p. 272 

SOURCES 

Los Angeles Poverty Department website 

http://lapovertydept.org 


Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo 

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a group of Argentine human 
rights activists formed in response to the campaign of disap- 
pearances, torture and murder carried out during the military 
junta’s 1976-1983 “dirty war.” The junta “disappeared” over 
30,000 people while denying any knowledge of their where- 
abouts. Day after day, the Mothers assembled in the Plaza de 
Mayo, facing the presidential palace, to protest the disappear- 
ance of their children. They wore headscarves with the names 
of their children and often carried photographs of the disap- 
peared. Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo played a critical role in 
organizing resistance to the junta and in its eventual collapse 
in 1983. 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigil p. 10 

PRINCIPLE 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
Use the power of ritual p. 198 

SOURCES 

University of Texas at Austin, 
“Madres de Plaza de Mayo" 

http://trb.la/wjaP8H 

International Center on Nonviolent 
Conflict, “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” 

http://trb.la/ylckaV 


PRACTITIONERS 


423 


TACTIC 

Nonviolent search and seizure p. 76 

PRINCIPLE 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 

THEORY 

Points of intervention p. 250 

SOURCES 

Operation SalAMI, “Resist the AMI!" 

http://www.ainfos.ca/98/ 
apr/ainf os00293.html 

Multi-Monde Productions, 
“Operation SalAMI” 

http://www.pmm.qc.ca/salami/ 

ENGLISH/opers.html 

Global Nonviolent Action Database, 
“Canadian Activists Demand Transparency 
in FT AA negotiations, 2000-2001” 

http://trb. la/xigN8r 


Operation SalAMI 

Operation SalAMI was a Montreal-based direct action 
group conceived as a campaign against the Multilateral 
Agreement on Investment (MAI). The MAI was a global 
investment treaty being privately worked out between mem- 
ber countries of the Organization for Economic Co-oper- 
ation and Development and the International Chamber of 
Commerce. The name SalAMI includes this agreement’s 
French acronym AMI (or “friend”) preceded by “Sal,” 
meaning bad or dirty. In May 1998 SalAMI surrounded 
and delayed the Conference de Montreal on Globalized 
Economies. The ensuing global mobilizations actually led 
to the shelving of the agreement. Since then, Operation 
SalAMI has collaborated to organize conferences, teach-ins 
and two festive May 1 vigils in front of the Montreal Stock 
Exchange. In 2001, after the government failed to produce 
secret negotiating texts for the Free Trade Area of the 
Americas (FTAA) treaty, Operation SalAMI surrounded 
the Department of International Trade and Foreign Affairs. 
Climbing barricades, they declared they had a “Citizens’ 
Warrant for Search and Seizure.” Five days later, the 
International Trade Minister released the full FTAA draft. 
Negotiators missed the 2005 deadline for the implementation 
of the FTAA. 


TACTIC 

Happening web 

PRINCIPLE 

Don't dress like a protestor p. 126 
The real action is 
your target’s reaction web 

SOURCES 

Swarthmore College Computer Society, 
“Orange Alternative" 

http://trb.la/wdPc3V 


The Orange Alternative 

The Orange Alternative was a 1980s-era underground protest 
movement in Poland. It used street happenings and absurdist 
provocations to ridicule the Communist regime and promote 
independent thinking. Their actions, enormously popular 
with students who often found Solidarity marches stiff and 
boring, included graffiti, distributing toilet paper (a consum- 
er product in short supply at the time), and singing Stalinist 
hymns while holding hands around the orangutan cage at 
the Warsaw Zoo. Most memorably, they organized a march 
of 10,000 people in orange dwarf hats. “How can you treat 
a police officer seriously,” notes founder Waldemar Fydrych, 
“when he is asking you the question: ‘Why did you participate 
in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?”’ 


424 


PRACTITIONERS 


Otpor 

Otpor — “resistance” in Serbian — was a civic youth move- 
ment started by a small group of student activists at Belgrade 
University that was active from 1998 until 2003. Otpor played 
a key role in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic’s government 
and in Serbia’s transition to democracy. In just two years of 
struggle against Milosevic, Otpor ’s numbers grew from eleven 
to 60,000. Otpor used street theater, dilemma actions, poster 
propagation and pranks to satirize, embarrass and undermine 
the legitimacy of the government. For example, activists in Nis 
held a “birthday party” for Milosevic with prank gifts like a 
one-way ticket to the Hague, a prison uniform and a cake in 
the shape of a red star. Even the group’s iconic clenched fist 
logo lampooned the WWII Serb Partisans’ symbol. Although 
the group was provocative, they maintained a staunch and 
disciplined commitment to nonviolence which ultimately 
dissuaded security forces from attacking them, regardless of 
orders. Since Milosevic’s ouster in 2000, the group has dis- 
seminated the lessons and tactics of their movement through 
trainings and consultations. Most recently, Egypt’s April 6 
Movement received training from Otpor on how to conduct 
peaceful demonstrations, how to respond to the threat of state 
violence and how to mobilize people. 


PRINCIPLE 

Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Take leadership from the most 
impacted p.180 

THEORY 

Pillars of support p. 24 8 
The social cure p. 264 

SOURCES 

Foreign Policy, “Revolution U," 
February 16, 2011 

http://trb.la/yqbSKx 

A Force More Powerful [film] 

http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org 


Preemptive Media 

Founded in 2002, Preemptive Media (PM) is a group of artists, 
activists and technologists that produces projects drawing atten- 
tion to the ubiquity and invisibility of consumer data. PM’s goal 
is to make their audiences more aware of the information they 
unknowingly divulge to governments and corporations and the 
ways in which the collection of that data often occurs without 
consent. One of PM’s most famous projects, the “Swipe Bar,” was 
a mobile installation designed to look like a local watering hole. 
When customers showed their IDs and swiped their Visas, Pre- 
emptive Media served them not only beer but also a report of all 
the data stored on those cards. PM thinks of its projects as “beta 
tests,” and some of them — like a website to aggregate short news 
reports sent from hundreds of cell phones — resemble pared- 
down precursors of more popular technologies (like Twitter). 
But the “beta” quality of their actions, and the willingness to 
experiment, is very much the point. 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 

PRINCIPLE 

Make the invisible visible p. 152 
By any media necessary web 

SOURCES 

Preemptive Media website 

http://preemptivemedia.net 

ArtSlant, “Preemptive Media" 

http://trb.la/zhOXnz 


PRACTITIONERS 


425 


The Provos 


TACTIC 

Prefigurative intervention p. 82 
Hoax p. 54 

PRINCIPLE 

Put your target in a 
decision dilemma p. 16 6 

SOURCES 

High Times, “Dutch Provos," January 1990 

http://trb.la/xqYEIu 


The Provos, active in the mid-1960s, were a Dutch countercul- 
ture movement heavily influenced by anarchism. The Provos 
undermined the legitimacy of the authorities with nonviolent 
pranks and happenings designed to provoke violent police re- 
sponses. A royal wedding in 1965 was the occasion for the most 
audacious prank. Before the wedding, the Provos spread wild 
rumors about schemes to dump LSD into Amsterdam’s water 
supply, drug the royal horses, and the like. The government 
responded by mobilizing 25,000 troops to guard the royal 
parade. On the day of the wedding, it took nothing but a few 
smoke bombs to provoke a massive riot. The Provos also devised 
a series of White Plans: utopian, often whimsical schemes and 
policy proposals that targeted absurd and undesirable aspects 
of capitalist society. The White Bicycle Plan, for instance, called 
for Amsterdam to ban cars from the central city and to distrib- 
ute thousands of free, white bicycles for public use. The Provos 
began implementing the plan by placing fifty white bicycles on 
the street, which were promptly confiscated by the police, who 
asserted that free bicycles were an invitation for thieves. 


TACTIC 

Detournement/Culture jamming p. 28 
Street theater web 

THEORY 

Commodity fetishism p. 218 

SOURCES 

Reverend Billy and The Church 
of Earthalujah website 

http://www.revbilly.com 

Village Voice, “Rage Against the Caffeine: 
Reverend Billy Preaches the Anticorporate 
Gospel to Starbucks,” April 18, 2000 

http://trb.la/xUEo1K 

New York Times Magazine, “Reverend 
Billy's Unholy War,” August 22, 2004 

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/22/ 

magazine/reverend-billy-s-unholy-war.html 


Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah 

Reverend Billy is part performance art, part guerrilla theater 
and part political activism. Devised by Billy Talen in 1997 as a 
one-man performance piece, the Reverend Billy character first 
appeared in Times Square preaching that “Mickey Mouse is 
the Antichrist!” Styled after conservative televangelists in his 
white dinner jacket over a black T-shirt, priest’s collar and Elvis- 
esque hairdo, Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah — 
a group of green-robed gospel singers formerly known as The 
Church of Stop Shopping — have performed countless retail 
interventions in the United States and abroad. Their targets 
have included Disney Stores, Starbucks, Walmart, Nike, Home 
Depot, Barnes & Noble, JPMorgan Chase and UBS. 


426 


PRACTITIONERS 


Cindy Sheehan 

Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan, or the “Peace Mom,” is best known 
for her peaceful anti-war vigil “Camp Casey.” After her 24-year- 
old son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in the 
Iraq war in April 2004, President Bush met in Fort Lewis with 
Cindy and other grieving parents to pay them his respects. 
According to Sheehan, Bush behaved disrespectfully at this 
meeting, forgetting her deceased son’s name and leaving her 
questions unanswered. In response she co-founded Gold Star 
Families for Peace, and in August 2005 she camped outside 
then-President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch for twenty-six 
days demanding answers and another meeting with him (nei- 
ther of which occurred). With her action, Sheehan attracted 
national and international support and media attention. She 
has since participated in anti-war protests across the nation, 
given speeches, written articles, and run against House Speak- 
er Nancy Pelosi as an independent candidate after Pelosi did 
not take initiative to impeach Bush. 

Situationist International 

Situationist International (SI) was either one of the twentieth 
century’s most important and successful cadres of anti-capi- 
talist revolutionaries, or a bunch of petty, self-marginalized 
megalomaniacs waging an inconsequential decades-long war 
of words — depending on your perspective. SI began as a 
group of avant-garde artists but rapidly evolved into a politi- 
cal organization that, at its peak, heavily influenced the May 
1968 general strike in France. Si’s organizational culture was 
persistently tumultuous. Recounting its history of backbiting, 
excommunications, factional splits, personal feuds, esoteric 
debates and bitter polemics would require a separate book. 
For instance, Letterist International, one of Si’s parent organi- 
zations, emerged out of a heated debate over the artistic status 
of Charlie Chaplin. Having expelled all of Si’s founding mem- 
bers, the group’s intellectual leader Guy Debord dissolved the 
group in 1972. Si’s chief legacy is its social and political the- 
ory, which has influenced a broad range of individuals, orga- 
nizations and movements, including Reclaim the Streets, the 
Weathermen and Adjusters. 


PRINCIPLE 

Put your target in a decision dilemma p. 1 66 
Lead with sympathetic character p. 146 
Shift the spectrum of allies p. 172 

SOURCES 

Gold Star Families For Peace website 

http://www.gsfp.org 


THEORY 

Society of the Spectacle p. 2 66 
Political identity paradox p. 254 

CASE 

Reclaim the Streets p. 350 

SOURCES 

Situationist International Archives 

http://www.nothingness.org/SI 

Bureau of Public Secrets, 

“May 1968 Graffiti" 

http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/graffiti.htm 


PRACTITIONERS 


427 


TACTIC 

Hoax p. 54 

PRINCIPLE 

Play to the audience that 
isn't there p. 150 
Make it funny web 

SOURCES 

Joey Skaggs website 

http://joeyskaggs.com 


Joey Skaggs 

Joey Skaggs (born 1945) is an American artist notable for his 
prolific hoaxes and media pranks. In one (in) famous hoax, 
Skaggs put an ad in the Village Voice advertising a dog brothel. 
After receiving a blizzard of interested phone calls, he hired 
actors (dogs and people) and invited reporters to tour the fa- 
cility. WABC TV even aired a piece on the brothel that was 
slated to win an Emmy but was disqualified when Skaggs re- 
vealed the hoax. Other pranks over the last several decades 
have included taking hippies on sightseeing tours of suburban 
Queens after Skaggs became annoyed at suburbanites touring 
the Lower East Side to gawk at hippies, attempting to burn 
a “Vietnamese nativity scene” to protest the war in Vietnam, 
tying a fifty-foot bra to the U.S. Treasury building on Wall 
Street, and dozens of others. 


TACTIC 

Direct action p. 32 

PRINCIPLE 

Take leadership from the 
most impacted p. 180 

THEORY 

Action logic p. 208 

SOURCES 

The Gelman Library at George 
Washington University, “Mitch Snyder" 

http://trb.la/zsCqYW 

First Church Shelter, “Mitch Snyder" 

http://trb.la/A2M3AD 

National Coalition for the Homeless, 
“Remembering Mitch Snyder" 

http://trb. la/wvpfOo 


Mitch Snyder 

Mitch Snyder (1946-1990) was an American advocate for the 
rights of homeless folks. His career as an organizer began while 
he was serving time in prison following a 1970 arrest for auto 
theft. Snyder, along with Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, partici- 
pated in hunger strikes to protest the treatment of prisoners in 
Vietnam. In 1973 Snyder joined the Community for Creative 
Non-Violence (CCNV) in Washington, D.C., then an anti-war 
group. After the end of the Vietnam war, CCNV began to ad- 
minister services to homeless Washingtonians, and Snyder be- 
gan the work that ultimately made him famous. In addition 
to participating in hunger strikes, holding public funerals for 
homeless people, and organizing housing takeovers to protest 
municipal and federal housing policy, Snyder participated in 
numerous pranks and artistic hijinks. In one case, he and sev- 
eral of his colleagues dressed in business suits, infiltrated a Na- 
tional Conservative Caucus and dove into the world’s largest 
apple pie — intended by the NCC to symbolize a bigger piece 
of the pie for everyone — howling “It’s all for me!’” 


428 


PRACTITIONERS 


El Teatro Campesino 

El Teatro Campesino — “The Peasants’ Theater” — is a Cal- 
ifornia-based company whose performances focus on the 
social and political experience of Latinos in the U.S. They 
staged their first productions on flatbed trucks as part of Ces- 
ar Chavez’s Delano Grape Strike in 1965, and collaborated 
with Peter Brook to stage performances for farm workers in 
the early 1970s. In the late ’70s they shifted into more heavily 
produced spectacles, the most famous being artistic director 
Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit,” about the false murder conviction of 
twenty-one young Chicanos in Los Angeles, which became the 
first play by a Latino to go to Broadway. Their latest work has 
expanded to address broader political questions like corporate 
power and the environment. 

UK Uncut 

UK Uncut is a tax justice movement that emerged in late 2010 
in response to proposals by the British government to sharply 
reduce social spending. UK Uncut highlights the disparity 
between the government’s aggressive austerity measures and 
the preferential tax treatment enjoyed by big businesses by 
targeting retail stores and bank branches owned by the worst 
corporate tax dodgers. Its colorful, creative actions have shut 
down dozens of banks and stores through banging pots, blow- 
ing whistles, chanting and singing. To highlight cuts to specific 
social services, protesters have held read-ins to protest library 
closures and sleep-ins to protest cuts to housing subsidies, and 
they have transformed targeted stores into hospitals, daycares, 
classrooms and homeless shelters. UK Uncut has also inspired 
similar actions in the United States, carried out under the 
name U.S. Uncut, which began with a national day of action 
on Lebruary 26, 2011. 


TACTIC 

Street theater web 

PRINCIPLE 

Balance art and message p. 100 
Know your cultural terrain p. 142 

SOURCES 

El Teatro Campesino website 

http://www.elteatrocampesino.com 

Video archive of El Teatro Campesino 

http://cemaweb.library.ucsb.edu/ 

ETCList.html 


TACTIC 

Flash mob p. 46 

PRINCIPLE 

Choose your target wisely p. 114 

THEORY 

Hashtag politics p. 238 

SOURCES 

UK Uncut website 

http://www.ukuncut.org.uk 


PRACTITIONERS 


429 


Voina 


TACTIC 

Guerilla theater web 

PRINCIPLE 

Reframe p. 1 68 
Use your radical fringe to slide 
the Overton window p. 200 

SOURCES 

Free Voina 

http://en.free-voina.org 

Don't Panic Online, “Russian Art 
Anarchists Explain Themselves" 

http://trb.la/zWZr9o 


Voina (“war”) is a Russian performance art collective that 
uses guerrilla street theater as a vehicle for political protest. 
The group has projected a skull and crossbones onto the na- 
tional government building, painted a 65-meter erect penis 
on a drawbridge facing the state security agency’s headquar- 
ters, overturned police cars, and thrown chickens at McDon- 
ald’s workers to “alleviate their boredom.” One performance, 
staged a few days before Dmitry Medvedev was elected presi- 
dent, consisted of six couples having sex in Moscow’s state 
biological museum under a banner that read “Fuck for the 
heir, Little Bear,” a play on Medvedev’s surname, which means 
“bear” in Russian. In 2010, the group’s co-founders, Oleg Vo- 
rotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev, were arrested for an anti-cor- 
ruption performance that involved overturning seven police 
cars and were held for three months before being charged 
with a crime. At the time of this writing, they are charged with 
inciting hatred against a social group — the police — and face 
up to seven years in prison. 


TACTIC 

Mass street action p. 68 
Street theater web 

PRINCIPLE 

This ain't the Sistine Chapel p. 188 

SOURCES 

Washington Action Group website 

www.wagthis.org 


Washington Action Group 

Since 1998, Washington Action Group (WAG) has creatively 
harnessed the energy of cultural work to nonviolently build 
people and community power with street theater, stilt walking, 
graphic visuals, banners, giant props/puppets, pageantry and 
civil resistance actions and trainings. WAG formed the core of 
the organizing, training and art teams for the World Bank / 
IMF actions in 2000 that brought 40,000 protesters along with 
a fifteen-foot tall Goddess of Liberation and a humongous 
papier-mache Structural Adjustment Machine into the DC 
streets. They have provided guidance to many national and lo- 
cal groups looking to make a splash effectively and safely at the 
intersection of art and politics. WAG is dedicated to using a 
diversity of creative resistance and cultural expression to help 
activists be more effective. 


430 


PRACTITIONERS 


Women in Black 


Women in Black (WiB) began in 1988 in Israel as a response 
to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and to 
the Palestinian Intifada, but spread rapidly to countries all 
around the world. WiB’s website states: “Women in Black is a 
world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice 
and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other 
forms of violence. . .. We are not an organization, but a means 
of communicating and a formula for action.” WiB actions of- 
ten take the form of regularly scheduled silent vigils where 
participating women wear all black, stand in a public place, 
carry placards and pass out leaflets. WiB groups have also 
used many forms of nonviolent direct action, including block- 
ing roads and trespassing on military bases. 


TACTIC 

Artistic vigil p. 10 

PRINCIPLE 

Simple rules can have grand results p. 176 

THEORY 

M ernes p. 242 

SOURCES 

Women in Black website 

http://www.womeninblack.org/en/vigil 


The Ya Basta Association 

The Ya Basta Association was an organization of Italian anti- 
capitalists. The group is famous primarily for originating the 
tute bianche tactic. In 1994, the mayor of Milan ordered the 
eviction of protesters from the Leoncavallo social center, de- 
claring, “From now on, squatters will be nothing more than 
ghosts wandering about in the city!” Protesters responded by 
wearing tutes bianches — white overalls — to reconquer the 
center. The meme spread rapidly and tute bianche blocs were 
a visible component of many subsequent anti-globalization 
protests. Symbolically, the white overalls were meant to chal- 
lenge the invisibility of people on the margins of social life 
— the unemployed, the homeless and the illegal immigrants. 
Practically, the white overalls were often padded or worn along 
with shields made of plexiglas and helmets to resist the blows 
of police while the bloc marched through barrier lines and 
perimeter fences. Tute bianche blocs became a kind of collec- 
tive protection force, marching in compact formations to pre- 
vent dissipation by security forces, creating a sense of security 
for protesters who feared injury. As a result, protester injuries 
decreased significantly, and police were forced to shift from a 
dissipation to a containment tactic. 


PRINCIPLE 

Don't dress like a protester p. 126 
Maintain nonviolent discipline p. 148 
Take risks, but take care p. 182 

SOURCES 

The Fifth International, “Tute Bianche" 

http://trb.la/zGYB3b 

Dario Azzellini, “Tute Bianche” 

http://www.azzellini.net/node/2466 


PRACTITIONERS 


THEORY 

Expressive and instrumental actions p. 232 
Floating signifier p. 234 
Revolutionary nonviolence p. 260 

SOURCES 

Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional 

http://ezln.org.mx 

Wikipedia, “Zapatista Army 
of National Liberation" 

http://trb.la/wgAtud 


The Zapatista Army of National Liberation 

Although the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) 
began as, and in many ways remains, an armed uprising 
against the Mexican state, the EZLN frames its goals and ac- 
tions in political, rather than military, terms. The movement’s 
anti-leader Subcomandante Marcos has written: “In a war, the 
decisive thing is not the military confrontation but the politics 
at stake in the confrontation. We didn’t go to war to kill or be 
killed. We went to war in order to be heard.” Marcos’ prolific 
writing, along with the movement’s persistent outreach efforts 
and savvy media campaigns, have inspired radicals all over the 
world to demand autonomy and rise up against their govern- 
ments and corporate overlords. 


432 


PRACTITIONERS 


Write your own practitioner profile 

The modular format of Beautiful Trouble allows the collection 
to expand endlessly to reflect new tactical breakthroughs, 
underrepresented areas of struggle and overlooked pearls 
of wisdom. 

Become part of Beautiful Trouble. Use this template to 
write up your own creative-activism insights. Submit your own 
module for publication on the Beautiful Trouble website here: 

http://beautifultrouble.org. 


PRACTITIONERS 


433 


RESOURCES 

50 MINDBOMBS NO BEAUTIFUL 
TROUBLEMAKER SHOULD DO WITHOUT 


10 GOOD BOOKS 
ABOUT BIG IDEAS 


Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige, The Next American Revo- 
lution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century (Berke- 
ley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011) 

Jan Cohen-Cruz, ed., Radical Street Performance: An 
International Anthology (New York: Routledge, 1998) 

Stephen Duncombe, ed., The Cultural Resistance Reader 
(London and New York: Verso, 2002) 

David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism 
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) 

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest (New York: Penguin Group, 2007) 

bell hooks, Feminist Theory From Margin to Center (London: 
Pluto Press, 2000) 

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism 
(New York: Picador, 2007) 

Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the 
Third World (New York: New Press, 2008) 

David Solnit, Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and 
Build a Better World (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2004) 

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing 
Without Organizations (New York: Penguin, 2008) 


10 GOOD BOOKS 
ABOUT ORGANIZING 


Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall and Steve Max, Organizing for Social 
Change (Santa Ana, CA: Seven Locks Press, 1996) 

Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough, 

Re -.Imagining Change: An Introduction to Story-Based Strategy 
(Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010) 


434 


Robert Bray, SPIN Works: A Media Guidebook for Communicating 
Values and Shaping Opinion (San Francisco: Independent 
Media Institute, 2000) 

Si Kahn, Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders (Silver 
Spring, MD: National Association of Social Workers, 1991) 

Rinku Sen, Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and 
Advocacy (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass [Wiley and Sons], 2003) 

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, The Revolution 
Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex 
(Brooklyn, NY: South End Press, 2007) 

Hillary Moore and Joshua Kahn Russell. Organizing Cools 
the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis 
(Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011) 

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York and London: 
Continuum, 2006) 

Judy Ancel and Jane Slaughter, A Troublemaker’s Handbook 2: 
How To Fight Back Where You Work — and Win! (Detroit: Labor 
Notes, 2005) 

Crimethlnc, Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook 
(Salem, OR: Crimethlnc Far East, 2006) 


Beyond the Choir 
http://beyondthechoir.org 

Colours of Resistance Archive 

http://www.coloursofresistance.org 

Midnight Special Law Collective 
http://www.midnightspecial.net 

New Organizing Institute 

http://neworganizing.com 

Organizing for Power 

http://organizingforpower.wordpress.com 

Organizing Upgrade 

http://www.organizingupgrade.com 


10 GOOD 

ORGANIZING 

WEBSITES 


435 


Praxis Makes Perfect 
http://joshuakahnrussell.wordpress.com 

The Ruckus Society 
http :/ /ruckus, org 

Training for Change 

http://www.trainingforchange.org 

Waging Nonviolence 
http://wagingnonviolence.org 


CorpWatch 

http://www.corpwatch.org 

Global Nonviolent Action Database 
http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu 

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict 
http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org 

Know Your Meme 
http://knowyourmeme.com 

Little Sis 

littlesis.org 

The Meta-Activism Project 

http://www.meta-activism.org 

Multinational Monitor 
http://multinationalmonitor.org 

Open Secrets 

http://www.opensecrets.org 

Tactical Media Files 
http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net 


10 GOOD BOOKS 
RESEARCH WEBSITES 


Center for Media Justice 
http://centerformediajustice.org 


436 


10 Tactics. Directed by the Tactical Technology Collective. 2009. 
http://www.informationactivism.org/en 

After Stonewall. Directed by John Scagliotti. 

New York: First Run Features, 1999. 
http://firstrunfeatures.com/afterstonewalldvd.html 

Bringing Down a Dictator. Directed by Steve York. 

A Force More Powerful Films, 2002. 
http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/hlms/bdd 

The Corporation. Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer 
Abbott. New York: Zeitgeist Films, 2003. 
http://www.zeitgeisthlms.com/hlm.php? 
directoryname=corporation 

The Fourth World War. Directed by Rick Rowley. 

New York: Big Noise Films, 2003. 

http://www.bignoisehlms.com/hlms/features/ 

89-fourth-world-war 

A Force More Powerful. Directed by Steve York. 

A Force More Powerful Films, 1999. 

http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/hlms/afmp 

Flarlan County U.S.A. Directed by Barbara Kopple. 

New York: Cabin Creek Films, 1976. 

http://www.cabincreekhlms.com/hlms_harlancounty.html 

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. 

Directed by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick. 

New York: Zeitgeist Films, 1992. 

http://www.zeitgeisthlms. com/him. php?directoryname= 
manufacturingconsent 

This is What Democracy Looks Like. Directed by Jill 
Friedberg and Rick Rowley. New York: Big Noise Films, 2000. 
http://www.bignoisehlms.org/hlms/features/100- 
whatdemocracylookslike 

We: A Documentary Featuring the Words of Arundhati Roy. 
Created anonymously, 
http ://www.weroy. org 


10 GOOD FILMS 


437 


C0NTRI00T0R 1)108 


EDITORS ANDREW BOYD is an author, humorist and veteran of creative campaigns 
for social change. He led the decade-long satirical media campaign 
“Billionaires for Bush.” He co-founded Agit-Pop Communications, an 
award-winning “subvertising” agency, and the netroots movement The 
Other 98%. He’s the author of three books: Daily Afflictions, Life’s Little 
Deconstruction Book and the creative action manual The Activist Cookbook. 
Unable to come up with with his own lifelong ambition, he’s been crib- 
bing Milan Kundera’s: “to unite the utmost seriousness of question with the 
utmost lightness of form.” You can find him at andrewboyd.com. 

DAVE OSWALD MITCHELL is a writer, editor and researcher camped out 
at the intersection of the economic and ecological crises. He edited the 
Canadian activist publication Briarpatch Magazine from 2005 to 2010, and 
his writing has been published in Rabble, Reality Sandwich, Rolling Thunder 
and Upping the Anti. His interests include brevity, tactical media and 
going elsewhere. 


CONTRIBUTORS RAE ABILEAH is the co-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace, a peace 
and justice group working to redirect the nation’s resources from milita- 
rism to healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activi- 
ties. Rae lives in San Francisco, and is a contributing author to several 
books including: 1 0 Excellent Reasons Not to foin the Military; Sisters Singing; 
Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists', and Corporate 
Complicity in Israel’s Occupation. When not raising a ruckus for justice, she 
enjoys surfing, hiking and cooking quiches. She can be reached at rae@ 
codepink.org 

RYAN ACUFF grew up in Chicago, IL but has been in Rochester, NY for the 
last six years participating in community organizing and pursuing gradu- 
ate work in psychology (M.A) . Currently his organizing is focused on home- 
lessness, foreclosure and affordable housing rights, including work with 
University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Genesee 
Valley Earth First!, Food Not Bombs, Rochester Free School, Healthcare 
Education Project, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Rochester 
Police Accountability Coalition, Rochester Copwatch, Occupy Rochester 
and Take Back the Land Rochester. 

CELIA ALARIO is a communications strategist, spokesperson coach and 
seasoned troublemaker. She enjoys collaborating with grassroots organiza- 
tions, filmmakers, artists and authors, and scheming about how to engage 
key audiences and change the world with stories, while tapping both 
traditional media/marketing and new media/web 2.0 tools. Alario teaches 


438 


Environmental Communications Strategies and Tactics at UC Santa 
Barbara, and serves on the board of directors of the Independent Tele- 
vision Service (ITVS) and the smartMeme Training and Strategy 
Collective, and on the advisory boards of BEN (Business Ethics Network) 
and IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) . Her sock puppet alias tweets at 
www.twitter.com/ celiaalario 

PHIL ARONEANU been working on solving the climate crisis since he was 
sixteen. In 2008, with author/activist Bill McKibben and a small group of 
fellow students, he helped launch the innovative 350.org campaign. In the 
lead-up to the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen, 350.org 
pulled off over 5,200 simultaneous public events in 181 countries in what 
CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in history.” Since 
then, Phil has led national and global campaigns to push back against cor- 
porate polluters and build an authentic grassroots climate movement. Phil 
currently serves as U.S. Campaign Director at 350.org 

PETER BARNES is an entrepreneur and writer who has founded and led 
several successful companies. Barnes began his career as a reporter on 
The Lowell (Mass.) Sun, and was subsequently a Washington correspon- 
dent for Newsweek and West Coast correspondent for The New Republic. In 
1976 he cofounded a worker-owned solar energy company in San Fran- 
cisco, and in 1985 he cofounded Working Assets Long Distance (now 
Credo Mobile) . His books include Capitalism 3. 0: A Guide to Reclaiming the 
Commons (2006), Who Owns the Sky? (2001), and Pawns: The Plight of the 
Citizen-Soldier (1972). 

JESSE BARRON is a fiction writer and critic living in Brooklyn. His reviews 
have appeared in the New York Observer and the Daily, and he worked with 
The Faster Times on the media campaign for the One Young World activ- 
ists’ summit in Zurich. Since graduating from Harvard in 2009, he’s been 
at work on a novel about Americans in Dubai. 

ANDY BICHLBAUM (AKA Jacques Servin) got his start as an activist when, 
as a computer programmer, he inserted a swarm of kissing boys in a 
shoot- ’em-up video game just before it shipped to store shelves, and found 
himself fired, famous, and hugely amused. Now, Andy helps run the Yes 
Lab for Creative Activism as part of his job as professor of subversion at New 
York University. Bichlbaum once flew down the Nile in a two-seater airplane, 
bringing a live goat to a remote Sudanese village as a hostess gift for a home- 
coming party. (The party was fun and the goat was insanely delicious.) 

NADINE BLOCH has walked hundreds of miles, trained volunteers, built 
giant puppets, climbed skyscrapers, dangled off bridges, wrangled spoke- 
councils, juggled media, developed curricula, and sailed oceans, all in 
support of social and economic justice. Her affiliations include work with 
Bread & Puppet Theater, Greenpeace, Labor Heritage Foundation, Non- 
violence International, Ruckus Society, HealthGAP and Housing Works. 
Nadine’s work explores the potent intersection of art and politics; where 
creative cultural resistance is not only effective political action, but also a 
powerful way to reclaim agency over our own lives, fight oppressive systems, 
and invest in our communities — all while having more fun than the other side! 


439 


KATHRYN BLUME grew up improvising radio dramas on a tape recorder 
and pretending the trees were talking back. A little while later, she finagled 
a self-designed degree from Yale in environmental studies and theater, and 
it’s been pretty much stuff like that ever since. She is co-founder of the ra- 
dio show Earth on the Air, and the Lysistrata Project, the first worldwide the- 
atrical event for peace. She has had essays published in numerous books, 
blogs, and magazines. Kathryn’s also a solo performer, climate activist, 
yoga teacher, wedding officiant, haphazard gardener, and irresponsible cat 
owner. Visit her at kathrynblume.com. 

L.M. BOGAD is a lifelong creative strategist (guided and goaded by Harpo, 
Groucho and Zero), co-founder of the Rebel Clown Army, founding di- 
rector of the Center for Artistic Activism (West Coast), and professor of 
political performance at the University of California at Davis. He writes, 
performs, and strategizes with the Yes Men, Agit-Pop, and La Pocha Nostra. 
Author of Electoral Guerrilla Theater: Radical Ridicule and Social Movements, 
Tactical Performance (forthcoming), the play COINTELSHOW: A Patriot Act, 
and works about the Spanish Civil War, Haymarket Square Riot, Pinochet 
coup, and the Egyptian revolution, he has led his Tactical Performance 
workshops in revolutionary Cairo, Reykjavik, Buenos Aires, and across the 
USA and Europe. 

JOSH BOLOTSKY is an online organizer, blogger, comedic performer/writer 
and occasional voiceover artist, currently serving as new media director 
for Agit-Pop Communications and its Other 98% Project. While at Agit- 
Pop, he has worked on creating and spreading projects that include the 
RepubliCorp effort for MoveOn, and Target Ain’t People, the very first 
Depeche-Mode-inspired take on the Citizens United decision to break a 
million views on YouTube. Josh also serves as part of the national volun- 
teer collective that manages Living Liberally, a network of progressive so- 
cial groups and activist resources in all fifty states. He enjoys vegan chili 
and writing about himself in the third person. More atJoshBolotsky.com 

MIKE BONANNO (ne Igor Vamos) is a guy from Troy, New York, who 
spent his formative post-childhood years making mischief. Mike once 
purchased hundreds of talking GI Joe and Barbie dolls, switched out 
their voice boxes, and created a media firestorm that had God-fearing 
Americans up in arms about the shadowy “Barbie Liberation Front.” This 
escapade caught the attention of lazy queer hackers like Bichlbaum, and 
together they formed the Yes Men. When not involved in tomfoolery, 
Bonanno is also a professor of media art at Rensselaer Polytechnic Insti- 
tute, with a Scottish wife and two babies. 

KEVIN BUCKLAND is an artist, artivist organizer and the “Arts Ambassador” 
for the grassroots global network 350.org. He has worked with the Inter- 
national Youth Climate Network to promote creative communication and 
beauty in the call for climate justice across the globe. Harkening on the 
call to “make this movement as beautiful as the planet we are fighting to 
save,” he employs comedy, tragedy, farce, satire and a great deal of card- 
board in his attempts to end empire and globalize justice. Videos, writings 
and participatory projects can be seen atwww.ctrlartshift.org 


440 


MARGARET CAMPBELL is a freelancer of many trades, but carries with her 
the spirit of engaged journalism, and a closely-held belief in the capacity of 
public art to heal and unite. She has had the opportunity to travel toward a 
deep understanding of her home community of Minneapolis/ St. Paul, and 
to work extensively on the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Northwest- 
ern MN on media and environmental justice initiatives. She is a staunch 
supporter and budding practitioner of the earnestly-funny approach to ac- 
tivism advocated in this book. She is currently stuck somewhere between 
the Mini Apple and the Big Apple. 

DOYLE CANNING was struck by a tear gas canister in the streets of Seattle 
in 1999, and has never been the same since. She is a creative strategist 
with a deep commitment to building broad-based movements for social 
justice and an ecological future. Doyle is co-director of smartMeme.org, 
a national strategy center. She delivers training, coaching, facilitation 
and framing to high-impact networks who are taking on greedy corpo- 
rations, corrupt politicians, racist laws and polluting policies. Doyle is 
co-author of Re:Imagining Change with Patrick Reinsborough. She lives with 
her husband in Boston, where she enjoys practicing yoga, cooking, and 
making music. 

SAMANTHA CORBIN is actions director for The Other 98% and national 
coordinator of the U.S. Uncut network, as well as a non-violent direct ac- 
tion trainer with The Ruckus Society and a founding member of the New 
York Action Network. She has coordinated scores of affinity group actions 
including banner hangs, blockades, and street theater actions; led several 
large-scale actions including the 5,000-strong Powershift 2011; and devel- 
oped and delivered countless trainings in creative non-violent direct ac- 
tion, affinity group organizing, strategic planning, scouting, and high tech 
action. Throughout the fall of 2011, she has been organizing and training 
with Occupy Wall Street. Sam is based in New York City. 

YUTAKA DIRKS is a tenant and community organizer and writer living in 
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been active in anti-poverty, workers 
rights and international solidarity movements, as well as offering legal 
support to social justice movements through the Movement Defence Com- 
mittee of the Law Union of Ontario. His writing has appeared in Upping 
the Anti and Briarpatch Magazine as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. 

STEPHEN DUNCOMBE teaches the history and politics of media at New 
York University. He is the author or editor of six books, including Dream: 
Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and the Cul- 
tural Resistance Reader. Duncombe is a life-long political activist, 
co-founding a community-based advocacy group in the Lower East Side of 
Manhattan and working as an organizer for the NYC chapter of the 
international direct action group, Reclaim the Streets. He co-created 
the School for Creative Activism in 2011 and is presently co-director 
of the Center for Artistic Activism www.artisticactivism.org He can be 
found at www.stephenduncombe.com 


441 


MARK ENGLER is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus and author of 
How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books) . 
He can be reached via the website http://www.DemocracyUprising.com. 

SIMON ENOCH is director of the Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian 
Centre for Policy Alternatives. He holds a PhD in Communication and 
Culture from Ryerson University in Toronto. Simon has previously pub- 
lished in Foucault Studies, Cultural Logic, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism and 
Socialist Studies. He can be reached at simon@policyalternatives.ca More 
here: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/offices/saskatchewan 

JODIE EVANS has been a peace, environmental, women’s rights and social 
justice activist for forty years. She has traveled to war zones, promoting 
and learning about peaceful resolution to conflict. She served in the ad- 
ministration of California Governor Jerry Brown and ran his presidential 
campaigns. She published two books, Stop the Next War Now and Twilight of 
Empire, and produced several documentary films, including the Oscar and 
Emmy-nominated The Most Dangerous Man in America and The People Speak. 
Jodie co-founded CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the board chair of 
Women’s Media Center and sits on many other boards, including Rainfor- 
est Action Network, Institute for Policy Studies, and Drug Policy Alliance. 

JOHN EWING is a new media artist merging public art with activism and 
education. He worked for two years in El Salvador, using the arts to organize 
and inspire dialogue about human rights. Recent projects include Virtual 
Street Corners (www.virtualcorners.net), winner of the Knight News Chal- 
lenge Award and selected by Americans for the Arts as one of the most 
significant public art projects of 2010. He was a co-founder of Ghana 
Thinktank (www.ghanathinktank.org), a collaborative, decade-long proj- 
ect that was a finalist for the Cartier Award. Ewing has a BFA from Cornell 
and an MFAfrom Rhode Island School of Design. 

BRIAN FAIRBANKS began his professional journalism career at the age of 
fifteen as a staff writer for The Hartford Courant. After serving as an assis- 
tant/librarian to Dr. Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley, and working 
on the collected letters of Hunter S. Thompson and the journals of Jack 
Kerouac, he became an activist with Billionaires For Bush and local grass- 
roots campaigns in New York City. After several years in the Nixon-esque 
political wilderness, he ended up where most of society’s outcasts do: in 
television. You can haunt him on Twitter. 

BRYAN FARRELL is an editor for Waging Nonviolence, a blog that documents 
the many ways people affect positive change around the world every day. 
His work has also appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, Mother Jones, Slate, 
and Grist. 

JANICE FINE is associate professor of labor studies and employment rela- 
tions at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University 
where she teaches and writes about low wage immigrant labor in the U.S., 
historical and contemporary debates regarding federal immigration 
policy, dilemmas of labor standards enforcement and innovative union 
and community organizing strategies. She is the author of Worker Centers: 


442 


Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream (2006) published by Cor- 
nell University Press and the Economic Policy Institute. Before becoming 
a professor, Fine worked as a community, labor, coalition and electoral 
organizer for more than twenty-five years. 

LISA FITHIAN has organized since 1975, weaving together strategic cre- 
ative nonviolent actions, anti-oppression work and sustainable practices 
in student, environmental justice, workers rights and peace and global 
justice struggles. Whether it was shutting down the CIA, White House, 
Supreme Court or the WTO or working on Justice of Janitors, Camp Casey, 
Common Ground Relief or Wall Street banks, Lisa has supported tens of 
thousands of people in accessing their power and gaining the experience 
and skills they need to fight for justice, no matter how great or small the 
cause. Her website organizingforpower.org chronicles much of her work 
and offers great resources. 

CRISTIAN FLEMING is a graphic designer, creative strategist, mischief 
enthusiast, and founder of The Public Society, an ethically grounded 
branding and design company based in Brooklyn, NY. He also works 
often with activist groups like The Yes Men to make stuff happen in the 
service of making the world a little better. 

ELISABETH GINSBERG holds a master’s in cultural studies and journalism 
from NYU. Being an over-educated Dane, she just finished her second Mas- 
ter’s degree, this time from the University of Copenhagen. In an attempt 
not to dry out completely, she wrote her thesis on Jon Stewart and Stephen 
Colbert. She lives in Copenhagen, always in close proximity to her Mac. 

STAN GOFF spent over two decades in the U.S. Army, mostly special opera- 
tions, from 1970-1996. He has worked as Organizing Director for Democracy 
South, a 12-state coalition working on money and politics (1996-2001), and 
as an Organizational Development Consultant with Iraq Veterans Against 
the War (2004-2006). Married, with four grown children and four grand- 
children, he is the author of four books including Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s 
Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2001) and Sex & War 
(Lulu Press, 2006). He blogs atferalscholar.org. 

ARUN GUPTA is a founding editor of The Independent. 

SILAS HARREBYE is finishing up a PhD on creative activism and its po- 
tential to facilitate new forms of democratic participation. He has a mas- 
ter’s degree in political philosophy and international development. Today 
the consultancy skills that he acquired as a project manager in Africa and 
Eastern Europe are used to advance social entrepreneurship. Silas writes 
for international journals and is frequently used by the Danish media to 
comment on the implications of social movements around the world. He 
lectures widely on the same topic. He currently lives in Copenhagen with 
his partner and their two kids. Write him (silas@ruc.dk) or google his 
name to find his profile. 

JUDITH HELFAND, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, is best known for 
her ability to take the dark, cynical worlds of chemical exposure, heedless 


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corporate behavior and environmental injustice and make them personal, 
resonant, highly charged and entertaining. Her films include A Healthy 
Baby Girl, its sequel Blue Vinyl (co-directed with Daniel B. Gold) and 
Everything’s Cool (also co-directed with Gold). Educator, “field explorer” 
and social entrepreneur, Judith co-founded both Working Films and 
Chicken & Egg Pictures. 

DANIEL HUNTER is a trainer and organizer with Training for Change, 
which practices a direct education style rooted in popular education, help- 
ing each person find their own wisdom and strategic brilliance. He has 
trained thousands of activists including ethnic minorities in Burma/Myan- 
mar, pastors in Sierra Leone, independence activists in northeast India, 
environmentalists in Australia, and Indonesian religious leaders. As an 
organizer, he recently pioneered a successful nonviolent direct action 
campaign to halt a politically-connected $560 million casino develop- 
ment project — and has led direct action campaigns with local community 
groups, national unions, and broad coalitions. His home is west 
Philadelphia. 

SARAH JAFFE is a journalist, rabblerouser, and Internet junkie. She is cur- 
rently an associate editor atAlterNet.org, where she writes about economic 
justice, activism, and more. She lives in Brooklyn with a rescue dog and too 
many books. You can follow her exploits on Twitter at @seasonothebitch. 

JOHN JORDAN was co-founder of Reclaim the Streets (1995-2001) and now 
works with the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, a collective 
that merges art, activism and permaculture. He loves to apply creativity 
to social movements such as Climate Camps and has invented various new 
direct action methodologies such as the Rebel Clown Army. Co-author of 
We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-capitalism (Verso), he 
has just brought out a new book-film with Isabelle Fremeaux exploring 
Europe’s utopian communities, Les sentiers de I’utopie (Editions Zones/La 
Decouverte). Balancing on the tightrope between art and activism, creativ- 
ity and resistance, is where he’s most at home. 

DMYTRI KLEINER is the author of The Telekommunist Manifesto, and a con- 
tributing artist to the “Miscommunication Technologies” continuing 
series of artworks in collaboration with the Telekommunisten Network. 
“Miscommunication Technologies” address the social relations embedded 
in communications technologies by creating platforms that don’t quite 
work as expected, or work in unexpected ways. Most recently, Dmytri has 
started an initiative to create an International Debtors’ Party. He can be 
followed at http://dmytri.info 

SALLY KOHN makes the world safe for radical ideas. As a veteran communi- 
ty organizer turned political commentator, Sally makes complex political 
issues accessible for everyday audiences. Sally is a grassroots strategist 
actively engaged in movement building for equality and justice. She 
is a regular on Fox News and MSNBC. Her writing has appeared in 
the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, FoxNews.com, Reuters, The 
Guardian and the American Prospect, among other outlets. You can find 
her at sallykohn.com 


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STEVE LAMBERT’S father, a former Franciscan monk, and mother, an ex- 
Dominican nun, imbued in him the values of dedication, study, poverty, 
and service to others — qualities which prepared him for life as an artist. 
He co-founded the Center for Artistic Activism, was a senior fellow at New 
York’s Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology from 2006-2010, devel- 
oped workshops for Creative Capital Foundation, and is a faculty member 
at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Steve is a perpetual au- 
todidact with (if it matters) advanced degrees from a reputable art school 
and well-respected state university. He dropped out of high school in 1993. 

ANNA LEE is manager of hlmmaker and partner services at Working Films, 
one of the leading independent media organizations focused on the art 
of engagement. Co-founded by Judith Helfand and Robert West, Working 
Films brings persuasive and provocative documentary films to long-term 
community organizing and activism. Since joining Working Films, Anna 
has worked on national audience engagement strategies for numerous 
high profile documentaries. She currently coordinates Reel Engagement 
(http://workingfilms.org/article.php?id=302), a ground-breaking, the- 
matic residency series for filmmakers and nonprofits. Anna is also an orga- 
nizer for educational, racial and environmental justice in Working Films’ 
hometown of Wilmington, NC where she lives with her husband and son. 

STEPHEN LERNER is architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign. He 
serves on the executive board of the Service Employees International 
Union. He has been a labor and community organizer for over thirty years 
and is working with labor and community groups in campaigns that chal- 
lenge Wall Street’s and big corporations’ domination of the political and 
economic life of the U.S. and global economy. His latest thinking here: 
http://www.alternet.org/story/153541/the_99_versus_wall_street%3A_ 
stephen_lerner_on_how_we_can_mobilize_to_be_the_greedy_l%27s_ 
worst_nightmare/ 

ZACK MALITZ, a New Yorker, thinks that fossil fuels belong underground. 

NANCY L. MANCIAS is a campaign organizer for CODEPINK. An anti-war 
advocate, Mancias has been actively trying to bring the troops home from 
their overseas misadventures. She has also been part of the movement 
against torture and a proponent of closing the prison in Guantanamo. She 
is a believer in accountability for war crimes. She alerts people around the 
country when war criminals will be speaking, encouraging them to try to 
make a citizen’s arrest or some ruckus. Like many in the anti-war move- 
ment, Mancias views her work against drones as a natural extension of her 
peace efforts. 

DUNCAN MEISEL is a strategic troublemaker who lives in Brooklyn, where 
he conspires on how to respond to the impending end of the world. He is 
particularly interested in trying to stop the warming of the earth, ending 
the impoverishment of America by corporate power, and putting an end to 
the prison system as we know it. He is honored to have been a part of cam- 
paigns such as Tar Sands Action, U.S. Uncut, The Other 98% and several 
different “Billionaires for X or Y” efforts. 


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MATT MEYER is a long-time leader of the War Resisters League and a 
founder of the anti-imperialist collective Resistance in Brooklyn (RnB). 
His solidarity and writing includes co-authorship with Pan-African pacifist 
Bill Sutherland of Guns and Gandhi in Africa, of which Archbishop Tutu 
commented: “Sutherland and Meyer have begun to develop a language 
which looks at the roots of our humanness.” Meyer’s work in education 
includes a ten-year stint as Multicultural Coordinator for NYC’s Alterna- 
tive High Schools, and work on the Board of the Peace and Justice Studies 
Association. He can be reached at mmmsrnb@igc.org. 

TRACEY MITCHELL facilitates creative and courageous conversations for 
community organizations. Based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, 
Tracey uses engaging techniques to help groups establish and accomplish 
goals, build teams, develop leadership skills and make decisions together. 
Tracey is also a forum theater practitioner (aka a “joker”) and has devel- 
oped plays with groups around issues of poverty and social justice. She 
is also a campaigner, zinester, organizer, reader and board game player. 
Tracey lives and works from her home in Saskatoon. For more about Trac- 
ey’s work, see www.facilitrace.com. 

GEORGE MONBIOT is an English writer, known for his environmental and 
political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the 
author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Take- 
over of Britain (2000) and Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global 
Justice (2008). He is the founder of The Land is Ours campaign, which 
campaigns peacefully for the right of access to the UK countryside and its 
resources. In January 2010, Monbiot founded the ArrestBlair.org website 
which offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of 
former British prime minister Tony Blair for crimes against peace. Find 
him at monbiot.com. 

BRAD NEWSHAM is the author of two round-the-world travel memoirs 
(All the Right Places and Take Me With You) . Since 1985 he has been a San 
Francisco taxicab driver, and is currently the owner/driver of Green 
Cab #914. His first human mural (one thousand people spelling out 
“IMPEACH!” in 100-foot lettering) was created on Ocean Beach in San 
Francisco, on January 6, 2007 — two days after San Francisco’s Nancy 
Pelosi became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. More info at 
bradnewsham.com. 

GABY PACHECO is an undocumented American and an immigrant rights 
leader from Miami, Florida. In 2010, she and three friends walked 1,500 
miles to bring to light the plight of immigrants in this country, and to 
urge President Obama to stop the separations of families and deporta- 
tions of DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) 
Act-eligible youth. This walk was dubbed the Trail of DREAMs. She 
currently leads a national project, Education not Deportation (END), to 
stop the deportation of DREAMers. Gaby is in the process of publishing two 
children’s books and aspires to be a musical therapist and work with 
people with mental disabilities. 

MARK READ is a filmmaker and professor of Media Studies at NYU, with a 


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focus on video as a tactical tool in community organizing. In other incar- 
nations, he has also been: a community gardens activist; a Union Square 
Park defender; a Critical Mass rider and organizer; a coordinator of large 
spectacles in public spaces such as subway train parties; and a core orga- 
nizer and propagandist for Reclaim the Streets NYC. 

PATRICK REINSBOROUGH is a strategist, organizer and creative provocateur 
with over twenty years of experience campaigning for peace, justice, indig- 
enous rights and ecological sanity. Patrick has helped organize countless 
creative interventions, including mass direct actions that shut down the 
Seattle WTO meeting in 1999 and protested the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 
2003. He is the author of numerous essays on social change theory and 
practice, including co-writing Reilmagining Change (PM Press 2010). He is 
the co-founder of smartMeme, a movement support organization which 
harnesses the power of narrative for fundamental social change. He lives 
with his family in the San Francisco Bay area. More at www.smartMeme.org 

SIMON R0EL holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Copenhagen 
where he did not only studied, but also got to socialize with all sorts of 
crazies (i.e., philosophers), including the founders of the Nihilist Demo- 
cratic Party. Determined to become a film director, he did an intense one- 
year filmmaking program at the New York Film Academy, and has recently 
completed his short film Urban Caveman, dealing with a dangerous mix of 
pizza, porn, and philosophy. Bon appetit. 

JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL is an organizer and strategist serving movements 
for social justice and ecological balance. He is an action coordinator, fa- 
cilitator & trainer with the Ruckus Society, and has trained thousands of 
activists. Joshua has written numerous movement strategy essays, chapters 
for several books, and a few organizing manuals, most recently Organizing 
Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis, with Hil- 
ary Moore (PM Press 2011). He has helped win campaigns against banks, 
oil companies, logging corporations, and coal barons; worked with a wide 
variety of groups in a breadth of arenas, from local resiliency projects, 
to national coalitions, to the United Nations Climate Negotiations. 

LEONIDAS MARTIN SAURA is a professor at Barcelona University where he 
teaches New Media and Political Art. For many years, he has been develop- 
ing collective projects between art and activism, some of them well known 
internationally (Las Agencias, Yomango, Pret a Revolter, New Kids on the 
Black Block...). He writes about art and politics for blogs, journals and 
newspapers, has created several documentaries and movies for television 
and internet, and is a member of the cultural collective Enmedio (www. 
enmedio.info). Last but not least, he is an expert at telling jokes, often 
using this divine gift to get free beers and avoid police arrest. 

LEVANA SAXON is an organizer and educator with Practicing Freedom, 
using participatory action research, popular education and Theater of 
the Oppressed to generate collaborative community-led change. Over 
the last seventeen years she has trained and facilitated thousands of chil- 
dren, youth and